There’s a good chance you’ll spend the first five minutes of Disco Pigs wondering what on earth Runt and Pig are going on about. It’s partly down to their thick Irish accents, but mainly because they live in a world of their own; a teenage bubble that floats through Cork City isolated, intense and threatening to implode. But give your ear and mind the chance to adjust and Cathal Cleary’s production will give you a glimpse of adolescence at its most raw and lyrical.
Pig (Rory Fleck-Byrne) and Runt (Charlie Murphy) have been friends from birth. Their friendship growing closer and more isolated to the point where they re-imagine Cork City as their own fantasy world, Pork City, in which they are the self-styled King and Queen. Anyone outside the pair, from Runt’s mother to the nightclub bouncer, is there to be manipulated, abused or violently beaten.
Throughout, Runt and Pig are a mix of childish playfulness and sexual, violent urges; one moment they’re munching on toy burgers, the next they’re beating someone up. Runt is more aware of her impending adulthood and less convinced that their all-consuming friendship is what she wants. Pig, on the other hand, gets drawn more and more strongly to Runt and their relationship starts to destabilise as both Runt’s and Pig’s true feelings become known.
In essence, Enda Walsh has taken the closest of childhood friendships, isolated it, magnified it and then examined it as the cusp of adulthood starts to destroy it. In the process he manages to capture the isolation and burgeoning desires of adolescence without any of the clichés. Perhaps most impressive of all – despite their self-centredness and extreme violence – both characters are still likeable and, at times, relatable.
Cleary’s production is particularly good at the moments of stillness, the points where the energetic intensity breaks, allowing the audience more readily into their world. There’s a particularly powerful moment where they’re at a beauty spot and Runt dreams of walking out into the sea, swapping her life with someone else’s for “a half hour or so”. It’s a fantasy that is both adult and childlike at the same time; strangely reminiscent of the Little Mermaid, yet rooted in a deep-seated unhappiness with her life.
Murphy and Fleck-Byrne both give intense, nuanced performances as the two teenagers, but it’s Murphy that really stands out. She finds a brittle, aggressive vulnerability that is frequently captivating.
Cleary gets the pacing just right. At times he keeps the audience at arm’s length with the energy and speed of the language, keeping us as outsiders to a deeply isolated friendship, whilst at others he let us in to see and feel the depth of a relationship that is being pulled apart by newfound emotions.