Theatre Review: The Pitchfork Disney
Moving Theatre Company
Loft at Q Theatre, June 20, 2013
A girl rides a tricycle on stage. She looks so young. So dwarfed by the expansive living room set taking up every available space of Q Theatre’s upstairs theatre. It takes a little while to realise she’s actually an adult, which makes a wonderfully discombobulating introduction to this skew-whiff play. She is Haley Stray (played by appropriately petite actress Michelle Blundell), an infantile 28-year-old who lives in her East London childhood home with her twin brother Presley (Todd Emerson). It is 10 years since their parents mysteriously died and the twins have lived in a state of arrested development ever since, surviving on a diet of chocolate and drugs.
The action takes place entirely within these mouldy walls. Designer Daniel Williams has done a impressively transformed the space into a decaying house, incorporating the stairway, the foyer and even the audience into the design. Spectators sit on an assortment of old couches and mismatched chairs.
For the first half of the play we’re locked in the surreal repetitive and claustrophobic world inhabited by Haley and Presley. Both Blundell and Emerson are delightfully playful in their characters, playing up childish mannerisms but avoiding being too cloying. Underscoring the play is a corrosive sense of fear. The outside world is so terrifying that Presley and Haley find comfort in fantasising that a nuclear apocalypse has wiped it out and they are the sole survivors.
Then strangers enter and the fear ratchets up again. Cosmo Disney, a shady cockroach-munching showman glides in (a smooth Leon Wadham), later followed by his terrifying masked companion Pitchfork Cavalier (Sam Snedden).
It’s over 20 years since this work by Philip Ridley launched a new style of “in-yer-face” theatre yet the themes of xenophobia and homophobia and child trauma still resonate. The script is wordy and in less deft hands could veer into monotony but director Sophie Roberts craftily shapes the play with careful staging – particularly during a lengthy monologue when Presley recounts a dream.
From the design to direction to performance, the Pitchfork team have put together a polished production with thorough commitment to the work that’s a diverting, if disconcerting, pleasure to watch.
At Q Theatre Loft until June 29.