By Donna Herman
I’m on the fence about Irish Repertory Theatre presenting a revival of Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs in New York. On the one hand, between the language the play is written in, which is partially made up, and partially a specific Irish dialect (Cork), and the thick, authentic Irish accents of the actors, the dialog is nearly incomprehensible to the American ear. I find it patronizing and exclusionary to be presented with “Art” that is intentionally meant to be understood only by the initiated. In fact, it tends to infuriate me.
On the other hand, Disco Pigs is about two young people who are the disenfranchised victims of a class and economic system they had no hand in creating. Darren, aka Pig (Colin Campbell), and Sinead, aka Runt (Evanna Lynch), were born on the same day in the same hospital to mothers who lived side by side in the same council estate – our equivalent to a housing project.
Raised side by side, they developed their own shorthand language that insulated them from the ugly realities of the lives they lead, and allowed them to be the king and queen of their own domain, where nobody could understand or disturb them. They see themselves as a kind of Bonnie and Clyde who they revere as a glorious example of strength, freedom and fidelity. They rampage through their town at night, dancing, brawling and stealing, and watching American TV like Baywatch for inspiration during the day.
During the action of Disco Pigs, Pig and Runt turn 17 and a change begins to take place in their once inseparable fraternal bond. Runt begins to wonder what life outside of the world they’ve created for themselves might be like. And Pig starts seeing Runt as something other than a sibling.
Clearly, despite the nearly incomprehensible language I was struggling with as I watched the play, I was able to grasp the gist (alright, and some of the nuance) of the work. I credit the stunning, committed, and physical performances by both Evanna Lynch and Colin Campbell. The two of them were on stage for 75 minutes straight in both emotionally and physically demanding roles that took them, literally, from birth to age 17 in charged circumstances. I think they would not have been able to communicate so ably without the expert guidance of Movement Director Naomi Said. The roller coaster was skillfully piloted by Director John Haidar, who managed both the highs and lows without letting the forward motion drag.
Still, despite the redeeming qualities that make the hard-to-understand language justified, I’m afraid that presenting a play to an audience that is not going to grasp most of what they’re hearing, is just a bad call. Judging from overheard comments in the line for the bathrooms at the end of the performance, most people didn’t like it because they couldn’t comprehend it.
Disco Pigs by Enda Walsh, Directed by John Haidar
WITH: Evanna Lynch (Runt); Colin Campbell (Pig)
Set & Costume Design by Richard Kent; Lighting Design by Elliot Griggs; Sound Design by Giles Thomas; Movement Director, Naomi Said; Associate Designer, Rachel Stone; Assistant Director, Nathan Markiewicz; Producer, Tara Finney; Production Stage Manager, April Kline. Presented by Irish Repertory Theatre, Charlotte Moore, Artistic Director; Ciaran O’Reilly, Producing Director. Through February 18, 2018 at Irish Repertory Theatre, 132 West 22nd Street. Tickets are available at www.IrishRep.org or by calling the box office at 212-727-2737.