"The work is a play, not so much in the traditional sense of the work, more in the lexical sense. The performers are clowns, actors and co-creators. " Susie Dee, Director.
Fascinatingly, The Long Pigs takes its title from the Melanesian Pidgin phrase for “human flesh” – a provocative image indeed and one that Susie Dee and her three actors utilize well to reveal the darker and oft unpleasant side of humanity. The form is stylized and, Dee explains, they use physical gags, lazzi and subtle slapstick to build an atmosphere of mirth and hilarity in order to commit acts of social barbarity.
"These reflections of societies’ contradictions, injustices and unspoken taboos are embedded in a foundation of black, comedic mud that is slowly eroded to reveal the audiences own reflected prejudices," Dee says.
The three performers are Nicci Wilks, Clare Bartholomew and Derrick Ives and, as a collective, are the key to Dee's decision for working on the project. Dee is also excited by the combination of forms the work explores.
"We play with narrative, circus, clown, bouffon and theatre. I spent time in the cabaret/comedy/circus world over 20 years ago but lately I have been working on ‘plays’ and ‘site specific ‘ theatre. Very happy to work on a non-verbal piece that is dark and very physical."
Dee has been working with Nicci Wilks on various projects over the past 2 years and describes Wilks as having a similar aesthetic and desire to make work that kicks arse.
"We have admired each other’s work for many years. I had also worked with Derrick over 20 years ago now – we were in Circus Oz together- and we both had a similar political look and take on art and life. I have always admired Clare’s work…….so when the 3 performers asked me to direct…..how could I resist!"
Dee and co. developed the piece over a year ago at La Mama Theatre for their explorations program. Working quickly and creating a 'small gem,' the collective were encouraged by great feedback to proceed to take the work into a fuller more thought out production.
"We then had the task (as most independent theatre groups do) in applying to funding bodies to fund the production – this work is tiresome, hard and very time consuming. We were lucky to have a producer to assist but it was stressful – the preparation needed and then the waiting game," says Dee. "Coming back to the work well after a year and now delving into the ideas behind the work has been challenging, thought provoking and inspirational too."
Dee is clearly excited by the project and tells me that devising a work is always challenging.
"As a theatre director," Dee explains, "one usually works on a ‘play/text’- where the focus is bringing that text to life- shaping and detailing etc. This process has been challenging and stimulating. There are four of us in the ‘room’- we work quite quickly- but at times we all get excited and jump over/on top of each other…navigating that is challenging!"
The Long Pigs uses the mocking evilness of the bouffon and overlays it with the western clown’s traditional innocence to create an environment where unspeakable subject matter is transformed into something palatable. There is no doubt that there is a kind of scary, nightmarish quality to the work play – what with the slicing and dicing of clown noses as a kind of motif – but it is also genuinely funny investing in classic comic forms.
"I think this work has great appeal for theatregoers looking for some playful provocativeness alongside their entertainment. Whilst the Long Pigs is stylistically ‘dark’ it is also dextrously physical comedy that is big on the belly laughs. "
The Long Pigs
Season 13 – 23 March 2014
Venue fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Bookings 03 9662 9966 or fortyfivedownstairs.com