Colin Campbell and Evanna
Lynch photos by Jeremy Daniel
names are Sinead and Darren, but they call themselves Runt and Pig. They are
the teens who inhabit Irish playwright Enda Walsh’s career-making 1996 plunge
into youthful chaos, Disco Pigs, being presented in a vibrant revival at
the Irish Repertory Theatre.
Billed as the
play’s ”20th Anniversary Production,” the show comes from London’s Tara Finney Productions, and has been directed with impressive precision and
imagination by John Haidar.
later went on to win a Tony for his book for the musical Once and gain
attention for his collaboration with David Bowie on the musical Lazarus,
begins this two-hander with the births of his characters. The births involve
different mothers but happen simultaneously and pretty much side by side in the
We first see
the kids’ heads poking out of the curtains as the rear of the set, as they urge
their “mams” to hold on and get through the ordeal. Eventually, their full
bodies step through the curtains, and as the script moves quickly to the pair’s
seventeenth birthdays, it’s clear that they are soulmates.
They are also
raging hellions, and they proceed to wreak havoc on their hometown of Cork
City, or as they call it “Pork Sity.” Pig beats up on a bartender at a pub,
they intimidate a bus driver as they take a free ride, dance frantically at a
downscale disco, slop down food, engage in Karaoke and take a cab ride for a
transporting first look at the ocean, providing one of the play’s few quiet
moments. They also discover sex.
and Pig make it into the upscale, glamorous disco of their dreams, but with it
comes intimations of maturity, a feeling of separation and aloneness, the
beginning of mortality. It’s a dark and wild but ultimately sobering though not
downbeat journey that Walsh has provided for his protagonists.
He has also
given them their own patois. As director Haidar explains in a program note,
“it’s a variation of a Cork dialect, but peppered with words, sounds, and
phrases of their own making, along with references from every corner of mid-90s
reviewers of the original production hailing Walsh as a “dazzling wordsmith,”
but when it’s spoken with an Irish brogue, a lot of it may just be
unintelligible for American ears. Nevertheless, the exuberance and magnetism of
the performances along with the dramatic changes in mood created by the
physical production, may well pull you in, even if you’re not exactly sure
about what’s going on.
As Pig, Colin
Campbell exudes a gleeful ferocity tempered with a hint of youthful unformed
sweetness, and his disco dancing, which takes on a robotic fury, is something
to behold. It’s almost an equally mesmerizing but exact opposite to John
Travolta’s sexy gyrations in Saturday Night Fever. (Naomi Said is the
also softens the cheer-leading admiration expressed by Evanna Lynch’s Runt for
her pal Pig, along with the heat she can generate when commenting on the
townspeople’s fashions, one of her passions. When she begins to feel
intimations of womanhood and individuality, it provides the play with a
beautifully realized conclusion.
and Lynch are making their U.S. stage debuts with this production. Most
appealing in their performances is the responsive dedication the two have for
each other. In the face of the cruelty and violence their characters perpetrate
in their search for self-identity, it provides an affirmation of their
humanity, even an infectious joie de vivre.
to the enticing theatricality are the many shifts in ambiance engendered by
Elliot Griggs’ lighting and Giles Thomas’ sound on the spare set design of
Richard Kent, who also did the costumes.
Disco Pigs may well confound your ears (where
are subtitles when you need them?), but your soul may still be able to respond.
Certainly, there has been enough audience comprehension to warrant an extension
for the run. Originally set to close of February 18, it will now play until
the Irish Repertory Theatre
132 West 22nd