There is a moment towards the end of Disco Pigs where the character Runt states, “17 years and fuck all change”. Exchange the timescale of 60 minutes for 17 years and you have an accurate soundbyte for the show.
From the moment that the ASBO without a cause duo of Pig and Runt bound onto stage with half a shopping trolley the energy is pitched at a level that clearly the actors were directed never to deviate from no matter what the subtleties of the script might suggest. To their credit, both Pete Day as Pig and Fiona Hamilton as Runt keep this energy up throughout the performance, but in doing so they destroy any meaning that the play has beyond glorifying youthful excess and violence.
Director David Betz-Heinemann has been lazy in his approach to the script, accentuating the exuberance of Pig and Runt’s relationship at the expense of the real emotional build-up that Pig has in trying to express his love for Runt. The moment where Pig realises his desire to be with Runt is the one of the most tender in the play but could still have done with a substantial change in pace, if only to draw the audience in to his moment of exposed vulnerability. The fact that these emotions drive him to beat a man who has shown an interest in Runt to death, a shocking example of a shared experience gone wrong, is instantly passed over with an emotionless ‘Cheerio!’ from Runt. If there had been a greater confidence in pausing and letting the dramatic moments play out in contrast to the hi-octane action such sections would have had a real emotional clout.
This laziness also pervaded the staging, which made no attempt to differentiate between the various settings beyond moving two tiny blue chairs. There was the occasional excellent use of props, such as the shopping trolley and manipulation of hoodies to simulate dancing partners, which gave scenes a sense of differentiation and theatricality, but all too often there was a reliance on… nothing. The disco scenes had all the thumping bass and strobe lighting effects you would expect, but the audience had to work hard to imagine the transition from takeaway parlour to coastal viewpoint because there was nothing beyond the words in the script to suggest such a change had taken place and this is live theatre, not a radio show.
If the energy that both Day and Hamilton had for the roles had been utilised beyond a ‘Let’s go cloobin’’ surface interpretation of the material, along with some imagination for staging each scene in a unique way, this would have been a significantly more satisfying production. As it is, Disco Pigs is unpolished and monotone in nature.