The Long Pigs

The Long Pigs
Devised and performed by Clare Bartholomew, Derek Ives and Nicci Wilks. Director Susie Dee. Set design Anna Tregloan. Composer and sound design Jethro Woodward. Lighting design Andy Turner. Costume and artistic fabrication Amanda Carr. Produced by Insite Arts. 45 Downstairs until 23 March, 2014. (Vic).

It’s not often in the theatre that you suddenly realise you are in the presence of creative genius – but this love-child of Sweeney Todd, Stephen King, Charles Dickens and the Ringling Brothers is simply sensational. Like the internationally-acclaimed Slava’s Snowshow (which was the last time magic happened in the theatre for me to this extent), The Long Pigs harvests the rich, tragi-comedic terrain of Clown with unprecedented creativity and skill.

Ms Tregloan, Mr Turner and Ms Carr transform the familiar 45 Downstairs space into a marvellously inventive industrialised environment – one that is not only the finest design for the theatre in recent memory, but is also a brilliantly-realised installation that continually reveals its treasures for the entire performance. The finale not only punctuates the night with a startling clarity, but is also an unforgettable coup de theatre.

Ms Bartholomew, Ms Wilks and Mr Ives are terrifyingly good as the trio of disenfranchised, black-nosed clowns, raging against the popularity of their red nose-wearing colleagues. It is a simple premise, yet with the clarity of Ms Dee’s finely-crafted direction within a design wonderland, the complex layers are revealed with potent, and at times, astonishing levels of the purest imagination.

Within Mr Woodward’s masterful soundscape, this ensemble’s dazzling physical vocabulary – accompanied by barely audible, vocalised mumblings, squeaks and mutterings – is absolute perfection. Their journeys, individually and collectively, are beautifully defined – and while audience participation usually makes me want to flee the theatre, the dismantling of the fourth wall on this occasion made me want to leap out of my seat and help.

There are grand and remarkable themes interlaced throughout this work, and even after hours of contemplation, it is impossible to begin to define them all. What does emerge, is that this is an exploration of not only how innately different we are, but how different we aspire to be. And by celebrating the essence of our individuality, we just might be empowered to achieve great things.

As I was walking down Flinders Lane on my way home, I overheard an audience member use the word ‘magnificent’. And I couldn’t agree more. The Long Pigs is magnificent theatre. See it before it disappears overseas to be, I predict unreservedly, a sensational hit.

Geoffrey Williams

Pictured: Clare Bartholomew, Derek Ives and Nicci Wilks in The Long Pigs. Photography Ponch Hawkes

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