The audience wait in total darkness in the Corpus Playroom, the sound of a heartbeat rhythmically pounding in the background.
This state of tense anticipation is suddenly interrupted by the sound of an ambulance as Gabriel Wheble (Pig) and Meg Coslett (Runt) burst onstage, bee-baa-ing at the top of their lungs. So begins Ben Vince’s dynamic production of Enda Walsh’s 1996 play Disco Pigs, which explores the complex, obsessive relationship between Pig and Runt, a duo who have been inseparable since their birth in the same hospital on the same day.
Pig and Runt exist in their own world, communicating through snorts and lingo of their own.
Their detachment from reality is evident; the only mention of Runt’s mother is in relation to Pig: their parents tried to keep the two apart, but from an early age, they insisted on spending every waking moment together, isolating themselves not only from their families but from Cork as a whole. Reality only begins to shine through the cracks of their friendship when Runt matures and starts to question the nature of their relationship. As Runt, or rather Sinead, becomes increasingly disillusioned with her all-consuming friendship with Pig, her childish overalls, space buns, and mismatched socks suddenly seem out of place as she transitions from childlike naivete and the realisation that she wants a life beyond her world with Pig.
The set was fairly bare, but Coslett and Wheble managed to use the minimal props in a way that enhanced the poignancy and humour of their performance.
I must give directorial credit to Vince for having the two throw back and subsequently smash full cans of Strongbow Dark Fruits onstage. What the performance lacked in elaborate scenery it made up for in creative use of props and sounds. When Pig describes his sexual awakening and experiences with Runt, his voice grows hushed and the lights cut out. All the audience can see is Pig’s face, illuminated by a torch, and Runt sitting in the corner, breathing loudly.
The illusion of this intimate moment is shattered when the pair return to their childish antics, abruptly interrupting the scene with their typical shrieking and snorting. The jarring transitions between moments of personal reflection and the pair’s tendency to revert to childhood games and their own idioglossia tend to undermine Runt and Pig’s gradually increasing feelings of disillusionment and unease.
The rapid oscillations between emotions are not the only thing that can impede one’s understanding of the play, however. Wheble and Coslett’s accents were somewhat garbled, rendered even more difficult by the constant snorts and squeals that distinguish Runt and Pig’s personal language. For the most part, however, the two actors compensate for their accents with their incredibly expressive body language.
The more possessive Pig becomes, the more it becomes clear that Runt is desperate to break away, her emotional feeling of enclosure mirrored by her physical struggle to escape Pig’s grasp. Nonetheless, the energy that Coslett and Wheble brought to the performance is undeniable, their dynamic stage presence and chaotic transitions a reflection of the volatile relationship between their respective characters.