Enda Walsh's "Disco Pigs"
at the Irish Rep:
Two Feverish Adolescents On The Cusp of Adulthood
Irish Rep Theatre
132 West 22nd Street,
Playing now - March 4, 2018
Tickets at www.irishrep.org or 212-727-2737
Run time: 75 minutes
Lynch and Colin Campbell in "Disco Pigs." Photo by Jeremy
Every once in a blue moon, my mind is
kidnapped by a play in which a great deal of what is being said by
the actors—be it an accent, a foreign phrase, or a made-up language—no
matter how hard I try to decipher what I am hearing, has words being
delivered from the stage that are largely unintelligible.
"Disco Pigs", Dublin-born
Enda Walsh's adrenaline-infused coming of age play which runs through
March 4, 2018 at New York City’s Irish Rep, is a prime example
of this phenomenon. For here, the play's two energetic actors, as
they feverishly run about the stage, spout a mindboggling torrent
of baby talk, coupled with their own made-up language which includes
oinks and grunts. Worse! All of the talk is delivered in a Gaelic
brogue. I rest my case!
However, luckily and frequently in this play, the meaning of what
is being said—by the actors' movements, facial expressions,
and visual emotions (much like watching a silent film without subtitles)
nevertheless came to me at supersonic speed.
For those with short memories it was the 2012 Broadway production
of Enda Walsh's musical Once, a gentle and bittersweet romantic
tale of two Dublin musicians falling in love, that put the playwright
on the map for American audiences. Knocking the ball out of the park,
that musical went on to win a staggering eight Tonys for Best Musical,
Book, Director, Actor, Orchestration, Scenic Design, Lighting, and
Sound. Walsh, in a number of interviews, has stated that "all
of his plays are about some sort of love and a need for peace."
They are also "all effectively about theater, writing" and
"routines… I see my characters as needing to proclaim and
proclaim…and to what? You know, to what, construct rules and
sort of mechanisms within their living room, but to what end? Only
to try to escape them again and probably build more and more routines
and patterns and all that sort of thing."
The playwright has often suggested that
what interests him "is about me actually getting through the
day." And indeed, the three works of Walsh's that I did see, Once,
Lazarus (2015) which he co-wrote with David Bowie, and the 22-year-old Disco
Pigs, which won awards at the Dublin Fringe Festival (1996) and
the Edinburgh Festival (1997), follows these same ideas.
"Disco Pigs" takes place in Cork, Ireland. It is the
mid-nineties, and we find ourselves alone with the self-nicked named
Runt (Evanna Lynch) and Pig (Colin Campbell), both amazingly versatile
actors. It is their birthday, and Runt and Pig are reenacting being
pushed out into the world from their mother's uterus seventeen years
earlier on the same day and in the same hospital as each other.
For the next 75 breathtaking, roller-coaster
minutes, we follow Pig and Runt in their aggressive and spontaneous
birthday wildings, as they wander aimlessly from discos, to a restaurant,
to a shop, to home, and to the beach, in search of a good time.
More often than not it is trouble, instigated by the short-fused;
brawl-prone Pig with Runt following his lead, that raises its ugly
head. Even a trip to the store spells trouble for the duo, as Pig
goes on a rampage when the owner refuses him a free bottle of beer.
In one of their intrigues, always recounted to us by the actors, Runt
deliberately and seductively dances with a guy and then secretly signals
to Pig, after she is kissed, to rescue her, which as their game goes
leads to Pig beating the guy up as Runt cheers him on. It is at this
disco where Pig realizes that he’s attracted to Runt. However,
when Pig kisses her, Runt struggles and pulls away.
In another scenario, one of few quiet ones, Pig and Runt are seen
lying in front of the TV watching "Baywatch." They are simply
mesmerized by the sound, sea, sand, the sex, and all of the "Caliphoney
babies" of "Baywatch" as Pig notes while ogling the
scantily clad Pamela Anderson. Even the sleek beauty of the Hollywood
toilet catches their fancy. "Imagine having a wazz in dat bowl"
Pig says. Runt's laughingly replies, "Oh yeah pal! A pock-full
a tens ta wipe da bum hole and all."
After watching the buxom Anderson cavorting on the beach, Pig's attraction
to Runt resurfaces. This time, in a long monologue, Pig fantasizes—in
minute detail which would do a porno flick well—all of the intimate
sexual fantasies that he would like see happen between him and Runt.
Lynch in "Dicso Pigs." Photo by Jeremy Daniel.
All along, it is obvious from their behavior,
and in the games that they play, that times are a changing, and both
Pig and Runt want more out of their lives than what is in them. Nowhere
is this more glaring than when Pig takes Runt to the seaside where,
looking out to sea, they contemplate their future. Runt talks about
wanting to walk out "inta the sea and neva come back. I wan ta
tide to take me an give me someone differen…maybe just fur a
Pig, unsure, and perhaps even fearful of his
approaching adulthood, wants "a huge space rocket to take him
up to da cosmos shiny stars all twinkle twinkle and shit in my saucer
and have a good look down on da big big blue." And then, returning
to what he knows best, it is back to his "roam your room an da
Palace Disco cause das all dat matters, Runt…ress is just weekday
With a play like this which is mostly pure action delivered at lightning
speed and where timing is absolutely everything, "just so perfect"
production values are not only needed but absolutely required.
I am happy to say, from John Haidar's brilliant direction, Naomi Said's
believable direction of movement, Richard Kent's costume and set design
(the latter which featured only a television), Elliot Griggs lighting
and Giles Thomas' sound, both of which recreate the play's authentic
disco moments, the audience is gifted by the very best.
Coupled with Walsh's turbulent writing which accurately captures the
adolescent feelings and emotions in Pig and Runt, the tech crew has
fashioned an authentic work of art, one that tells us a lot about
our own coming of age.