By Enda Walsh
Directed by John Haidar
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited
“It will take a Captain Hook like my very own bes pal ta sniff it out, hey! What a treasure you bot are. Dis is really it, Pig!” – Runt
The 20th Anniversary Production of “Disco Pigs,” currently running at Irish Repertory Theatre, is a soul-ripping exploration of the psychological process of separation and individuation and the sometimes-painful experience of facing adulthood without what would seem requisite practice.
Pig (Colin Campbell) and Runt (Evanna Lynch), best pals from birth, have found ways to protect themselves from the world of 1996 Cork City, County Cork, Ireland: the pair has created their own language, sort of a plug-in to personalize the County Cork Dialect; they have kept their relationship platonic, avoiding the complications of a romantic involvement; and they have chosen activities they both enjoy and visit venues where they feel safe.
Under John Haidar’s exquisite direction, “Disco Pigs” follows Pig and Runt through their burgeoning adolescence where they begin to discover disappointment, danger, bullying, and the awareness of others. Just when Pig is “ready” to explore a deeper relationship with Runt, his longtime “pal” and “queen” gets “schlapped” (literally) by reality in the guise of Danny Boy’s girlfriend who “opens up da nose and blood all drip drip drop from da Runt.”
Like other tragic events that encroach upon the adolescent’s sense of safety in seclusion from the world, the event at the disco shatters Runt’s world view and her understanding of self and her relationship with Runt. Eventually, she confronts Pig, “An Runt race good dis time! Mus get away! No mo all dis play and pain! I wan for something else! Somethin differen! Freedom!” Runt discovers her need to get away from the “play” with Pig.
There’s a deep sadness in “Disco Pigs” as well as an exhilarating exploration of freedom found. Pig and Runt will no longer be what they were staring across from one another in the hospital nursery, or growing up next-door to one another, or taking the stage at the disco (what a wonderful trope for the adolescent Weltanschauung). Adulthood collapses in upon adolescence with a vengeance and shatters the protective walls of innocence.
Evanna Lynch finds the core of Runt’s dilemma with a superior acuity. Colin Campbell captures the chilling time when playfulness can become profound commitment. Their characters are authentic, and their performances are astonishingly believable. Their inner conflicts with themselves, each other, and their now frightening world connect powerfully with anyone on a journey of self-discovery.
Richard Kent’s set and costume design heightens the womb-like world of the disco pair and Elliot Griggs’s murky lighting surrounds the couple with the shadows of impending adulthood and all its vicissitudes.
Runt discovers that the sun “it really a beautiful big thing” and that it is “okay” and “all righ” to be alone – a lesson it takes most of us a lifetime to learn.