Directed by Alex Watson and produced by Mia Micozzi, the KCL Literary Society produced a very captivating and intriguing performance of Phillip Ridley’s ‘The Pitchfork Disney’. Set in a fantastical post-holocaust nuclear landscape, in a cockroach-eating, crime-riddled and deliciously dark world, exists two agoraphobic and chocoholic adults. Presley and Hayley inhabit this seemingly dystopian house and like to believe they are the only humans left. Played by Richard Foord and Emily-Kate Stuart respectively, parallels can be drawn between the two characters and our reality. Like Hayley and Presley’s fascination with the perverse, their fear of reality, agoraphobic tendencies in the age of technology and inexplicable sexual desires, which mirror reality. The performance flagrantly depicts political and topical issues and it is precisely this which bolstered the play to the forefront of the ‘In yer face’ movement in 1990s.
Often described as poetic with strikingly vivid imagery, Hayley and Presley’s monologues express the many political inferences in the play which draw parallels between their ‘fantastical’ world with our very own; something which Stuart and Foord performed with great passion and convincing infantine innocence. Although their world and behaviour may initially be shocking,it is in fact a reflection of our world that we wish to hide, hence the term ‘documentary realism’ adopted by Phillip Ridley. The play exposes our world’s ugliness before us and it is this which is most shocking.
The introduction of the fantastic yet manipulative Cosmo Disney and his accomplice Pitchfork are further extensions of Presley’s dark thoughts, and perhaps represent imaginary figures of Presley’s mind. They embody his fascination for the abnormal and his unexplored desires, more particularly, his sexual yearnings. Like Presley, we too have a fascination for the abnormal, although we may not admit it, we revel in watching the perverse, which would explain the popularity of shows like ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’. Presley is undoubtedly repulsed by Cosmo’s cockroach eating habits, but also seduced by it. Cosmo inflames Presley’s sexual curiosity through his suggestive gestures and accusations of homosexuality while his homophobia illustrates Presley’s fears of being identified as one. Cosmo’s rape of Hayley suggests Presley’s unspeakable desires, much like the fetishes of today’s society considered taboo .Indeed, the play itself is a freak show which we spectate for pleasure.
The show rejects our refusal to face reality and this is manifested in the graphics which serve as a backdrop for the performance. The graphics include the repetitive appearances of snakes and eyes; this is highly symbolic because the intensity of the opened eyes illustrates how the play forces us to confront the ugliness of life while the snake integrated with images of London represent the sinister undertones of life, made inconspicuous by us. The music which accompanies the slithering of a snake imitates its sinuous form and stealthy movements, adding to the malign atmosphere.
Staged in KCL’s Anatomy Museum, the intimate setting enforces the idea that there’s no escaping the reality, the theatre is claustrophobic enables us to empathise with Hayley and Presley’s repression and paranoia, as well as effectively illustrates their warped depiction of the world. The resourceful use of lighting also creates a restrictive atmosphere and the contrast of darkness and light during Haley and Presley’s monologues replicate the intensity of their emotions. The ingenious use of the torch and its piercing light aimed at the audience during these speeches confronts us and forces us acknowledge the reality we hide from. The characters often narrate towards the audience as well as move between them which implicates our existence as part of this perverse universe.
The KCL Literary Society’s production ‘The Pitchfork Disney’ is definitely one to watch. Like a modern day freak-show, it is extremely engaging and forces us to realise our inexplicable yet repressed sexual desires, our extreme paranoia and our paradoxical relationship with the perverse. Beautifully performed, the actors and actresses do justice to Phillip Ridley’s poetic and expressive language; something which is intensified by the effective graphics, lighting and music in the play.