The Boy Who Kicked Pigs – at Jacksons Lane, Highgate N, until 16th March 2013
It may be March, but its still dark by seven pm, and all alone I climb off the Northern (black) Line and walk down the hill to the glowing gothic building astride the crossroads. Inside there is a bustle and a hustle, and a surprisingly spritely audience all waiting to go into the theatre space for this evenings performance of The Boy Who Kicked Pigs, based on the book by Tom Baker; and dramatised by Kill The Beast, this evenings presenting company.
The play opens ‘in the pub’ and it’s quickly clear that the bizarre and macabre are going to play a central role – the overly generous, elderly, blind old man is quickly revealed to have (unknowingly) murdered a child, and then he is quickly despatched himself. After this opening ensemble, the play ‘flash backs’ and we start to meet the characters one by one; Robert, his sister, the local police; and then onto the local newspaper office, a particularly accurate portrayal of the rural newsroom – right down to the keen but bored work experience boy. From here the play proceeds at a rollocking pace, through mono and duologues, character and ensemble pieces, and ‘almost’ musical numbers. Costumes (Caligari is a particularly manic menace-a-like) and make up blend to enhance the grotesque, surreal and bloody nature (and oh yes, there is a fountain of blood and a *lot* of nasty, dirty, nature. But ‘spoilers’!). The story lifts and elevates whilst borrowing beautifully from the structures of classic horror and scifi. But with Tom Baker as the author, who would expect anything else?
In its ‘mix’ of genres The Boy Who Kicked Pigs perfectly suits the book and I suspect reflects the original vision of Baker. Using busy physical theatre and aspects of dance alongside the music, and as tools to create ‘crowds’ is frankly brilliant and works beautifully. The foley is particularly fine, and their sound designer and composer deserve long careers on the back of this play alone. As do all the Kill The Beast company. It helps that, young as they are, the company are scarily talented (all have other performance projects as well as day jobs) but for four individuals to successfully portray a villages worth of characters, (in the climatic disaster scene almost everyone in the story was there) is above and beyond mere ‘talent’. This is not, however some have chosen to portray them, amateur theatre. Kill the Beast – David Cumming, Natasha Hodgson, Clem Garritty, Oliver Jones and Zoe Roberts – are a fully fashioned, professional company. Follow them on twitter @kill_beast and watch out for them bringing this to your area, if you cannot get down here to see it.
A glorious romp through the dark, surreal side of human nature, with a cackle and a leer, and a salutary telling tale depicting just why one should never, ever, listen to your imaginary friends. Especially those with murderous intent.