Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Pitching for Fun and Horror

It is perhaps no accident that the rise of the British neo-brutalists (Kane, Ridley, Ravenhill et al) during the 1990s coincided with the last years of the Conservative government. After all the excitement of Thatcher, who pulled the post-war consensus towards a libertarian capitalism, the period under John Major managed to be both boring and corrupt. Eventually, New Labour came along and booted their arses, before descending into a mini-pops version of their historical nemeses.

Saint Sarah Kane did her best to break through the monotony to expose the horror beneath with some of the most shocking images ever presented on the British stage (and this is a tradition that includes Bond's stoning babies to death (Saved), Barker's civil war rape and execution special (Victory)). Philip Ridley is more subtle. He presents a hyper-reality that feels trapped between the dole culture of London and the aftermath of a future apocalypse, his characters more either glamorous psychotics or addicted shut-ins. The horror isn't in the body, it is all in your head...

And so, The Pitchfork Disney comes to The Tron. Director Eve Nicol is clearly a fan: 'Ridley is a greatly underappreciated writer,' she says. 'He's frequently produced in London but who needs more champions in Scotland.' Taking on his debut play - sometimes seen as the herald of British neo-brutalism - is no simple task, for the artists and the audience.

She continues: 'His lyrical barbarism can be real Marmite work - you’ll love it or hate it.' Even the name, a jarring juxtaposition of happy and brutal, provokes confusion. Beginning with the paranoid arguments of a pair of twins (adult, but stuck in an infantile obsession with safety and sweeties), it takes the post-apocalyptic scenario darker and deeper when Cosmo Disney turns up, like a satanic Godot, with his own kinky enforcer in tow.

'The Pitchfork Disney is an attractive piece for actors, huge characters with spectacular names, appearances and identities, but it is also demanding,' Nicol adds. 'All the cast have their own “party piece:” extended monologues that pop up out of the text, including a nightmarish ten minute post-apocalyptic fantasy. The play is an hour and a half straight through with little relief for either the cast or audience. But once you've worked your way through to the other end of the tickles and terror, it is deeply rewarding.'

The terror and tickles aren't just fancy technique: Ridley is a relentlessly sincere writer. 'His distinctive voice comes from a place of honesty and is fuelled by love for people and their survival instinct,' Nicol concludes. 'Ridley’s stories make your heart beat faster. You come out feeling more human and alive than you went in.'

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