How does one discover the meaning of life at sixteen? Seventeen? Interestingly, the protagonists of Disco Pigs written by Enda Walsh and directed by John Haidar, explosively reveal a possible M.O. Importantly, mythologize your identity, spin your story, and assign it grand parameters. Secondly, negotiate with and bring along a fellow myth maker. Thirdly, insure that you gain consensus and rock a unique and intriguing form of expression. Next, generate events and adventures with fearlessness, and leave chaos and mystery in your wake. Doubly be sure to shock and outrage, for then others will memorialize you with a combination of repudiation and awe.
Importantly, embrace your teenage-hood with unconscious and unknowing abandon. As you importune the moments of your youth, discard introspection, philosophical rumination, and intellectual curiosity. And eschew self-humiliation, self-consciousness, shame, the modifying tenets of maturation. Next, accept your seventeenth birthday but avoid understanding nature’s impulses and the mores that uplift nihilism. Finally, if possible, flame out before you lose the one person who manifests everything important to your mythological life.
In Disco Pigs, Enda Walsh tantalizes us by usurping the imaginary childhood friend meme and turning it on its head. As Disco Pigs (in its twentieth anniversary), unfolds, we understand that Runt (Evanna Lynch), and Pig (Colin Campbell), have found their own way of being. Because they were born around the same time, at the same hospital, and live next door, they become preternaturally close. Understandably, their frenetic relationship boggles the ordinary imaginations of average humans. Indeed, they fabricate their own universe and identities that only they can appreciate. Moreover, their otherness sparks and fuels the fires of rebellion. And this rebelliousness becomes a bulwark against their social environs and relationships with others.
Initially, we follow Lynch’s Runt and Campbell’s Pig from their birth as the heroes of their own fantastic drama. Then, we move into their self-created dreamland seeing how they have transformed their home town Cork City in County Cork, Ireland. Notably, their mythic setting becomes a place they can tolerate apart from the mundane, hackneyed life in an otherwise boorish town. As they seek refuge in each other and compel extraordinary adventures, they learn, they grow closer, then confront an inevitable turning point.
Predominately, Runt and Pig achieve their closeness by creating their own secret language with which to communicate, symbolize, estrange, and assault the ears of any listeners. With this language of poetry, Gaelic and crazy-quilt jargon, they strive to express and enjoy an earth-shattering wildness. They carouse, get drunk, and seek life’s mayhem. Indeed, their hijinks and accompanying cries and shrieks of pleasure echo uncannily throughout the staid Corkian society. With each other they have found home.
However, their soul friendship and oneness become threatened by rushing hormones. Aroused by Pamela Anderson, their viewings of Baywatch, and his desires spurred by encroaching manhood, Pig seeks more from Runt. As they approach a turning point on their seventeenth birthdays, another teenager expresses interest in her. Noting his own feelings for Runt and heartbreaking, inexpressible jealousy, Pig becomes violent. Ironically, their forms of expression do not allow a breakthrough to communicate Pig’s feelings of love and passion. Nor do they afford Runt the opportunity to seek and express an understanding of how their relationship changes. Indeed, they lack the tools to identify the reason for their creations.
When outside forces interfere and separate them, Pig follows Runt and they reunite. Embracing the memory of their past togetherness and seeking to rekindle their soul yearnings, they discover a nightclub to adventure in. The White Palace beckons like a dream. But it symbolizes the culmination of all that they have been, are, and will ever become. There, Pig becomes wound up in the dance frenzy and karaoke, only to see Runt mingle with another teen. Consequently, fear of losing Runt, fear of losing their emotional and ethereal intimacies, enrages Pig. Violently and wantonly he beats the young man to death. Sadly, their lustrous world devours them whole. With their reckoning upon them, Pig, and Runt flee. Will their creation provide further refuge or implode?
Despite my desire to announce a spoiler alert, I restrain my impulse to reveal the ending. Instead, I suggest you see this fascinating and vital production for a number of reasons. Though Pig’s and Runt’s secret language is explosive and illustrative, it stymies one initially and takes getting use to. But the language becomes the key to unlocking the themes. For one must gather the clues from Lynch’s and Campbell’s expressions, cries, physicality, vast energy and expansive movements to understand their identities. Rightly so, intelligible words do not convey the power of the emotion in their souls. Poetic cadences and buzzing jargon does. For that measure alone and their plosive, crazy, vital delivery of howls and silences, this production should be seen. Of course, you should also see it because it is unforgettable.
Interestingly, the concept of sharing an entire universe of one’s own making with another speaks volumes about our need to create our own identity, unhampered by deadening, historic social traditions. Nevertheless, the playwright explores the dangers of such creation. Primarily, the treachery occurs when non-introspective Pig ignores the warning impulses of his maturation. And behind the need for Pig’s and Runt’s creative expression lies the worm that turns into destructive forces which mask as inspiration and bonding.
A bare set and black-greyish curtain filters the backdrop of their playground of dreams. And it serves to heighten the nightmare of their growing maturation, disunion, reunion and dissolution. The helter skelter flood of sounds, disco music, TV static, and more provide appropriate accompaniment to their expression of the terrors of teenage-hood. The popping, anti-lyrical cadences, revealed in Pig’s and Runts obstreperousness, manifest and collide favorably with the lighting and sound design. Both actor’s strenuous movements upon the bare platform strike interest, alarm, thrill and vibrate one’s soul. Also, the staging is superb.
Kudos to Elliot Griggs (Lighting Design), Giles Thomas (Sound Design), Richard Kent (Set & Costume Design), Naomi Said (Movement). The production at Irish Repertory Theatre (22nd Street), runs 75 minutes without an intermission in an extension until 4 March. For tickets CLICK HERE.