Since its debut in 1996, Disco Pigs, by Enda Walsh, has become a contemporary classic in Irish theatre. The current production, directed by Cathal Cleary, is a remount of the sell-out Young Vic production from 2011, now on a twentieth anniversary tour of the UK and Ireland.
Runt (known to her parents as Sinead) and Pig (Darren) have had an intense, exclusive friendship since they were born one second apart, in the same hospital. They’ve built themselves an imagined world in which only they can exist, where they are King and Queen of Pork City (known to everyone else as Cork). As they celebrate their seventeenth birthday with drinking, dancing, and violence, their friendship is reaching its breaking point, as the tension between Pig’s possessive sexual interest in Runt and Runt’s desire to experience the world outside their friendship erupts into violence.
Runt and Pig have even developed a language of their own, not entirely intelligible to anyone else, though Amy Molloy and Ciarán Owens’ fast-paced fluency with it is impressive; their energetic performances convey what’s happening without having to understand every word. Molloy’s monologues as Runt, as she begins to dream of a world outside their friendship, have real emotive power, while Owens is convincing in both Pig’s fits of violent rage and moments of teenage naiveté.
So much of Pig and Runt’s relationship seems to exist in their own imagined space that the lines between fantasy and reality are often blurred; something the staging does much to emphasise. Pig and Runt manipulate manikins to portray the other people they encounter, and the food they “eat” is plastic. The set, while versatile, is that of a very dated-looking living room. The different places Runt and Pig go are marked by lighting changes and the rearrangement of furniture, but the wildly-patterned carpeting prevents the living room from disappearing entirely. The overall effect highlights the claustrophobic nature of Runt and Pig’s unhealthy friendship by suggesting they still inhabit the same space and are acting out the same roles they did as children.
Disco Pigs is a fast-paced and darkly humorous coming of age story. Watching this unhealthy relationship come to an explosive end is an intense, but definitely worthwhile, experience.