Theatre review: The Pitchfork Disney, The Loft

By Janet McAllister

1 comment
Michelle Blundell and Todd Emerson star in the excellent Pitchfork Disney.
Michelle Blundell and Todd Emerson star in the excellent Pitchfork Disney.

This excellent production is a slug of rich, complex whisky on a dark and stormy night. Come up the stairs, where the ripped wallpaper has been graffitied by disturbed, creative minds, and take your shabby seat in the musty house of twins Presley (an assured Todd Emerson) and Hayley.

Artist Philip Ridley's 1991 playful yet taut psychological thriller explores abject fascination with fragile bodies, and ushered in an era of shock dystopian British plays.

The scenario is a superior forerunner to Polly Stendham's 2009 Tusk Tusk: innocents fend for themselves and are afraid to leave the house. In an inspired touch, director Sophie Roberts puts Hayley (the compelling Michelle Blundell) on a tricycle, evoking The Shining and its forever-juvenile twins.

But her horror is not ghosts but reality. "I'd have to talk to the postman!" cries Hayley, imagining the terror of interacting with the world. She doesn't have notches on her bedpost; she decorates her bedspread with shiny chocolate wrappers - then hides under it.

(Daniel Williams' atmospheric, realist set is wonderfully inescapable.)

The twins' petty domesticity is contrasted with their excited delight in visceral shaggy wolf stories of their own imaginations.

The fabulous image-laden language rolls easily off the actors' tongues, and the whole script rewards close attention. To Hayley, raisins "taste like bits of skin". Even the dull thrum of traffic in Sean Coyle's sound design is menacing.

And then a stranger walks in. The stranger, Cosmo Disney (Leon Wadham), has an "associate": "just because we're sitting in the gutter together doesn't mean we're close".

Meanings are as slippery as the snake, presented as a fascinating and dangerous devourer of live prey, born again skin-shedder, unexpected victim, object of worship and phallic symbol, perhaps mixing grief at the Thatcherite patriarchy and an angry exploration of homophobia, exacerbated by Aids. "We can kiss and it kills us these days," declares Cosmo. Great value for $35.


What: The Pitchfork Disney
Where: The Loft, Q Theatre, to June 29.

- NZ Herald

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