This evening I was at the theatre. Again. This time, I was in a new venue – upstairs in Chaplin’s Bar on Hawkins Street in Dublin. I was seeing a production of ‘The Pitchfork Disney’ by Philip Ridley – the latest production by Judder Theatre.
I was apprehensive. This would be my third Ridley play of the year – after the companion plays of ‘Tonight with Donny Stixx’ and ‘Dark Vanilla Jungle’ in the Peacock Theatre in January. That experience had shocked me to the core. However, it did inspire one of my most scathing reviews – I described it as similar to being ‘bludgeoned repeatedly over the head with an uncooked leg of lamb for three hours’.
I am an open-minded person though, so I cleared my prejudices at the door as I entered. This was a different play by a different company.
I was pleasantly surprised.
‘The Pitchfork Disney’ was Ridley’s first play. It was produced in 1991, and kickstarted the ‘in yer face’ confrontational style of theatre that emerged during that decade.
It concerns Presley and Haley – 28-year-old twins who live a secluded existence, surviving on chocolate and biscuits a decade after their parents died / disappeared (their absence is not explained). They are isolated from the world, observing it from their window, but avoiding engagement with it.
Into their world crashes Cosmo Disney – an 18-year-old pub entertainer whose stage act is grotesque and mesmerising. Viciously homophobic, Cosmo has many unresolved issues.
What follows is a bizarre but entertaining piece of theatre. The motives the characters are not explained. Is this tale set in real life or merely in the hallucinations of Presley, is not fully clear?
Vincent Patrick as Presley gives an outstanding performance as a creepy oddball on the fringes of society. He is ably supported by Tara Nixon-O’Neill as the unstable Haley; and Adam Redmond as Cosmo – a menacing presence whose homophobia indicates a clear aching for a bit of man-on-man action.
The narrative is not linear and the deliberately gaping plot holes (where are the parents? Why is Cosmo so homophobic?) aren’t meant to be explained.
Cosmo’s homophobia dates Ridley’s play I feel. Equating homosexuality with rape, murder and child abuse was probably an unremarkable plot point in 1991. In the present day it just seems strange and troubling in a way unrelated to the strange shenanigans onstage.
This production of ‘The Pitchfork Disney’ (directed by Shaun Elebert) is a creepy and blackly humourous play that runs in Chaplin’s at 6.30pm this week until Saturday, and again from Wednesday to Saturday next week.
Recommended for a piece of spooky, surreal, and vaguely grotesque Halloween fun.