The Long Pigs @ Tandanya Theatre, Adelaide 14/3/2019

Originally planned to have been part of the 2015 Adelaide Fringe, issues regarding the offered venues being unsuitable for staging resulted in the cancellation and then the passing of co-creator and performer Derek Ives-Plunkett meant that the show was unable to be brought to Adelaide until now. 

The performance space of the Tandanya Theatre was an entirely appropriate setting with every random creak and squeal as people moved uncomfortably in their chairs heightening the mood and unease. From the outset, the drab, almost monochrome washhouse or abattoir set design and the entirely appropriate music and sound by Jethro Woodward conveyed a feeling of the macabre. The three protagonists played by Clare Bartholomew, Mozes and Nicci Wilks at first appear to be caricature-esque and rodent-like with their cartoon black noses. One could be forgiven for initially assuming that they are the long pigs of the title although the actually meaning of the term has more sinister connotations that become apparent as the performance progresses.

The characters’ repetitive, factory-like processing of red clown noses leads to their taking turns to side with and against each other to an extent that will horrify and repulse. It might even go just a step too far for some by the end so just be prepared to feel more than slightly uncomfortable, and I mean this with all seriousness and sincerity, so be warned.

There are several darkly humorous narrative diversions including some sacrilegious audience participation, and one in which the set is altered by effective lighting to produce a dream-like surreal episode of colour, the protagonists becoming beautiful slow-motion clowns before they shed their skins and return to their original state which could be thought of as anathema to actual clowns. Some of these asides didn’t entirely make sense but there was an internal consistency and overall it didn’t really matter as the performance captivated the audience, continuing to engage, surprise and shock until the grotesque conclusion and then remained a lingering disturbance afterwards.

Fringe Review By Jason Leigh

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