I’m going to level with you folks, my face really fucking hurts. My lips ache, my cheeks are sore, my eyes are red and my mouth is dry. The reason for this discomfort, I hear you cry? Laughter. Delirious, unbridled laughter, caused by Kill The Beast theatre’s overwhelmingly wonderful The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, which will be causing mayhem at Jackson’s Lane Theatre in London until March 16th.
The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is the story of Robert Caligari, a dark, twisted soul with a predilection for booting bacon (you like that line eh? I didn’t think of it). Robert may be the anchor of the narrative, but the play goes all over the place, taking you from a Kentish boozer, to a sun-soaked-shark-infested beach, to a hospital examination room, to a dank newsdesk, to a little girl’s bedroom, to Robert’s secret lair, before winding up in a fire-ridden motorway pile up, the script and performers moving between all these locations with the deftness of Philippe Petit walking a high-wire between the twin towers.
Now, I’m gonna be straight with you again guys, because I feel like we’re all bros here – I don’t much like the theatre. That is to say, the kind of theatre that people think of when they hear that word, or that I think of, being largely uneducated in the finer aspects of the medium as I am. You know what I mean though, big West End shows where you can smell the money dripping from the stage. Gargantuan set pieces and overblown spectacle. I’ve always found those kind of shows to be unseemly, brash, vulgar even, enough to put you off for life. The Boy Who Kicked Pigs isn’t that kind of show. In fact, it’s genuinely one of the best pieces of art I’ve had the privilege of witnessing.
The cast, wonderful though each of them is, do have help, it must be said. Each set piece is beautifully matched to a projected image, that both reminds you of Tim Burton and simultaneously reminds you how rubbish Tim Burton is. Gorgeous, expressionistic sets, shot and lit expertly, helping to create the world of the play. The costumes are hugely important too, helping the actors slip between characters with ease (I think each of them must play at least 10...). Glockenspiels and haunting, electric guitars create a perfect score to accompany the dark chaos of the play, never overused.
A story so intertwining, involving so many elements, could be rendered completely impenetrable in the wrong hands. Thankfully, it seems director Clem Garritty’s hands are a-ok. The most amazing thing about the play is the ferocious rhythm it keeps up from start to finish, both with humour and with language. The gag ratio is huge, literally a laugh-a-minute, with pleasingly obvious puns woven between brilliant physical comedy and marvellously surreal turns of phrase. The show’s action-packed climax, a fireball laden motorway pile up across the garden of England, is spectacularly realised as a chaotic, frenetic exchange of accents, characters, news reports and 90s power ballads. Basically, when the play begins you’re watching a great juggler juggle three balls without batting an eyelid. By the end, he’s not only juggling those three balls, he’s also got a flaming torch, a chainsaw, a baby and Carmen Miranda’s fruit-hat, and he’s decided to spin some plates too, and nothing is
falling down. It never does.
You know when friends ask you to do things, and you do them, because they’re your friends, and you want to support their creative endeavours? I ask people to share things I’ve written, on this site and others, to come to gigs I may be playing, to read scripts or stories I may have written, and they do it, because they’re friends. In turn I try and do the same. I’ve somehow managed to amass a group of talented, amazing friends, more amazing than I could ever be, and so if they want something promoted I am happy to throw my fairly miniscule klout behind it, blindly.
Then, you know when a friend does something, and it turns out to be fucking brilliant? Yeah. That. This.
The Boy Who Kicked Pigs runs until March 16th at Jackson’s Lane Theatre in Highgate, London. Tickets are available here