WHILE NEXT week sees Druid open its 20th anniversary revival of The Beauty Queen of Leenane, 1996 also saw the premiere of another iconic Irish play which launched a stellar writing career; Enda Walsh’s Disco Pigs.
Galway audiences will be treated to an award-winning new production of Disco Pigs which comes to the Town Hall Theatre, from London, on Monday, September 26.
Disco Pigs focuses on Cork teenagers Pig and Runt, born seconds apart in the same hospital. They share a fiercely intense friendship and an appetite for adventure and destruction. On the eve of their 17th birthday, fuelled by potent cider and burgeoning sexual desire, Pig and Runt celebrate by getting wasted and thumping anyone who gets in their way. But as their rowdy weekend reaches its climax, their unique relationship implodes with tragic consequences.
This production is directed by NUIG graduate Cathal Cleary, whose Zelig Theatre staged a number of plays in Galway from 2006 until 2009 when he moved to London. There he has notched up a series of impressive directing credits with prestige outfits like the Old Vic, Young Vic, Donmar, and National Theatre.
“It’s been a really worthwhile move for me,” Cleary acknowledges. “When I left Galway I said I’d give myself two years to get on the London theatre ladder and within one year I was assisting directing on Beauty Queen of Leenane at the Young Vic and I’ve been working steadily since. I’ve been very lucky.”
A play about people dealing with past traumas
Cleary’s production of Disco Pigs was first staged at the Young Vic in 2011 and featured Charlie Murphy as Runt. Her performance was seen by Enda Walsh and led to him casting her as the lead in Arlington in this year’s Galway International Arts Festival.
“We had an amazing time at the Young Vic, we had a really good run,” Cleary recalls “It then took me four years to get the funding and tour in place to revive the show last year, and when I did Charlie and Rory Fleck Byrne, who’d played Pig, weren’t available so I cast Amy Molloy and Ciaran Owens. Both Amy and Ciaran are back for this year and they are brilliant.
"Ciaran is second generation Irish; he was born in Glasgow and grew up outside London. I first saw him in a great production of Billy Roche’s A Handful of Stars and he was fantastic. I didn’t realise he wasn’t Irish because he had the accent absolutely nailed. He’s doing really well here in London, and Amy, who is from Belfast, is also based here. She did John Gabriel Borkman at the Abbey, Big Maggie with Druid and she just did Cyprus Avenue with Stephen Rea at the Abbey and the Royal Court.”
Cleary outlines his approach to Walsh’s play; “It was very challenging for myself and Chloe Lamford, the designer, to feel like we were going to come up with something that would be inherently ours and not be overshadowed by the original production because that had, and still has, such a long-lasting effect. What we realised was that Disco Pigs was the precursor for every Enda play that came afterwards.
"It’s a play about people dealing with past traumas and then recreating fictional situations for themselves, and you get the same thing in Walworth Farce, Misterman, Ballyturk, and Bedbound. Disco Pigs is about two young, very strange, very isolated people who try to go out into the world but cannot function in the world. They get mocked and humiliated so they retreat into their own bedrooms and create such realistic fictional versions of the real world for themselves that they believe it and that’s what we see.
"The key into it for me was the fact that they are acknowledging an audience, they know they’re performing. There is a scene in it where they go into a republican bar in Cork and start throwing their weight around and ordering drinks at 17 which just wouldn’t happen in reality; that is their version, it is how they make themselves king and queen. They are not functioning in the real world, which is a brilliant thing for theatre because these two people are on stage; they’re not in Cork, they’re in a theatre performing in front of an audience.”
'Galway is where I cut my teeth'
The director is also relishing his return to the west; “I can’t wait! Galway is where I cut my teeth. I wouldn’t have had the career I have in London without those few years after graduating from NUIG when Mike Diskin gave me a chance in Project 06 where he asked me to direct The Cripple of Inishmaan. Fergal McGrath and himself were so supportive of a 23-year-old who hadn’t directed a thing but who had just enough confidence to give it a go and to persuade people to be in it and to follow him. I went to London on the back of those plays I did with Zelig.
"When I went to London the people I was going up against were a few years younger than me but they’d directed nothing and I’d started a company. I came with that kind of self-assuredness and wanting to be the boss and that helped me progress. If I’d gone straight to London from university I think I would have been overwhelmed by the situation. It is very competitive there and not for the faint-hearted.
"Because I went over when I was slightly older it served me very well so I look back on that Galway time as my training. Galway offered me the opportunity of space to rehearse, a box office split to get a show on, audiences willing to give a show a go and willing and exciting and talented actors. That was the bedrock of my career.”
For tickets contact the Town Hall Theatre on 091 - 569777 or www.tht.ie