Review: Disco Pigs at Alphabetti Theatre

Review: Disco Pigs at Alphabetti Theatre

Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh

Alphabetti Theatre

21st February 2024

I was delighted to be back at Alphabetti Theatre for the first time in 2024 at the press night of Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh. There is something very comforting about the intimate space at Alphabetti that offers the comfortingly familiar with the avant-garde and bohemian. You always get a very warm welcome at Alphabetti and if you have not been before then check out their Spring programme because there is a full season of exciting theatre and events coming up – not least of which is Disco Pigs which runs at the venue until 9th March and with pay as you feel performances until 24th February. 

Disco Pigs is a very interesting play for a number of reasons. It is a two-hander so the two artists have to work very hard indeed. Pig (Ben Gettins) and Runt (Amy McAllister) are close friends having been born within seconds of each other some seventeen years before the action starts and have barely left each other’s sides since. They have an inseparable bond which is as endearing as it is toxic as the two engage in destructive episodes of drunken nights out, bizarre rituals that only they understand and, in the case of Runt, a few packets of Scampi Fries. 

Playwright Enda Walsh skilfully interweaves the familiar with the, frankly bizarre, through his very clever script. The audience understand most of the words in the libretto but there is a jarring cadence which unnerves and occasionally shocks the audience. There is also a sense of innocence and joy in the frantic speed of the piece which brings out the sheer joire de vivre but also the utter despair and feckless nature of the friends’ existence. Pig and Runt are mentally, physically co-joined and as any set of twins.  They could easily finish each others’ sentences and have they own unique way of communicating with each other that is as endearing as it is bizarre to the observer. They live in their own world in which they are the king and queen. It would be a brave person indeed who ventured into the somewhat warped bubble in which Pig and Runt exist.

There are elements of this play which are violent, there are some very uncomfortable themes, so I have to give a great deal of credit to both performers for making their characters credible and in the case of Gettins – likeable in the face of some of the unsavoury and manic things he gets up to. McAllister offers a zany, deranged and innocent but also manipulative persona and the audience is left in no doubt whatsoever that the relationship is not going to end well.

Disco Pigs is essentially a love story as two 17 year olds navigate their sexual awakenings and the nature of their relationship and feelings for each other. There is no doubt whatsoever that these two young people have a deep and binding love for each other which is on one hand endearing but on the other utterly doomed and destructive. This is a duo which blends the violent and criminal relationship of Bonnie and Clyde with the innocence and youthful exuberance of Mickey and Eddie in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers. 

There are two themes in Walsh’s script which I found jolted my viewing of the piece. One comes early on when you learn that Runt (a name usually given to the youngest of the litter) is actually older than Pig. I suggest that this immediately gives the audience the sense that something is not quite right. The other is a theme which is carried across the piece and asked a number of times. ‘What is the colour of love?’ Pig replies ‘What sort of love, love?’ This is a relatively deep question which is sandwiched between some youthful goofiness by the two characters. It is answered later in the piece when Pig is asked the question again by the bouncer at the more salubrious disco hall in Cork. Pig suggests the answer is blue. Now from my point of view, love can be any colour you want it to be but blue is generally considered to be as far away from love as it is possible for it to be. Psychologists would say that blue is a cold colour and I suggest that Walsh wants to further unbalance the viewer with this choice – especially as in the context of the story – it is, apparently, the correct answer. 

Ali Pritchard’s direction is deft. The characters rarely stay still and the various levels of the austere, monochrome set gives the performers the opportunity to showboat, get right into the faces of the audience, and, in the cast of a monologue by Pig, the opportunity to really challenge the audience’s perception of him. The soundtrack is as upbeat as the action with familiar disco classics littered throughout. The lighting (Chris Foley) is a delicate balance of subtle and garish – I particularly liked the effect created when Pig and Runt were watching ‘Baywatch.’

There is a lot to be experienced from this fascinating study of love, destructive behaviour and friendship and others may take from it differently to my take.

Disco Pigs runs until 9th March 2024.

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