The Long Pigs is one of the most unique theatre pieces I’ve seen in the past few years. A self-devised work by a team of four quirky individuals, three of whom star in the hour-long piece, The Long Pigs is a series of grimy musings on the clown condition. The devisers, all coming from a background in live performance and circus art, create a thrilling narrative that is equal parts surreal and sublime, unexpected yet oddly familiar, and creepy, but strangely heart-warming (or was that heart-stealing?).
As you descend into the murky depths of fortyfivedownstairs, the atmosphere is effortlessly unsettling, shaped in equal parts to the haze drifting up through the fairy-lit stairs, and the ambient sounds from the stage area. The sound sets the scene in more ways than one – a stunning soundscape perfectly executed, mind-blowing in complexity, and in many ways, a fourth performer elevating every element of the action on stage. In the somewhat unexpected twists and turns of the lives of these demented sub-clowns, the sound design is the glue, keeping the audience 120% engaged from the time the house lights dim.
Similarly, the show is a technical achievement in almost all other aspects, with intricate complexity in setting and stage design – a completely constructed area in a very flexible space. It is simultaneously an abandoned warehouse, fully functioning factory (of insidious occupation), ward, stage, and Gethsemane. All of this is achieved through nothing more than a few cleverly hung strings, sheets of dirty white fabric, and rotting planks of wood – but with more moving parts than your average car.
All of this complexity is navigated with such ease and conviction by the cast of three sub-clowns, This Pig (Clare Bartholemew), That Pig (Derek Ives), and The Other Pig (Nicci Wilks), that each of the spaces they habit are believable and visceral. Each performer creates a solid character, expressed chiefly through strong physicality and extremely creative storytelling. While not quite as lofty as the posters suggest, it is definitely a deeper level of engagement than many clown- or circus-based performances I’ve seen. And while some of the content won’t be for everyone and may be a tiny bit confronting, the amount of genuine ‘wow’ moments created in a basement off Flinders Lane will stay with me for some time to come.