‘The Long Pigs’ // CIRCFest Meanjin

‘The Long Pigs’ was hog-rrific.

One wouldn’t think that by combining horror and circus you’d achieve clowning comedy gold, but in the horrific and hilarious production of ‘The Long Pigs’, audiences delighted in fright.

Presented as part of CIRCFest Meanjin in Metro Arts’ New Benner Theatre, ‘The Long Pigs’ is a stylistic cult horror-comedy, full of circus tricks, clowning stunts and physical theatre routines. The storyline tells of three black-nosed clowns in the business of scalping red clown noses. These “pigs” are in the market for a dozen red noses, however, one’s gone missing and they can’t seem to find it. Enter a bunch of props, repetitious actions, audience interaction and things going awry, and this story unfolds in an unpredictable manner.

Co-creators Derek Ives-Plunkett and Clare Bartholomew have mastered a clever and intriguing circus show, which combines unexpected humour from all things ghastly. In this 60-minute spectacle, it’s clear to see that ‘The Long Pigs’ is a fresh, trepidatious farce that shines a spotlight on the art form of clowning.

Styled as an underground clown cult, the black comedy works perfectly in the Metro Arts space, especially as audiences descend into the madness (quite literally descending flights of steps into the theatre space). When in the theatre itself, the stage was transformed into an immersive and eerie jaunt – like an old rickety horror shack complete with white defected sheets covering various objects and furniture pieces. Designed by Anna Tregloan, the set was simple and terrific.

With the room spookily hazed and a haunting soundscape complete with classic sharp metallic noises, symbolic of any horror movie soundtrack, this aesthetic was enough to make audiences fear what would happen to them if they sat in the front row.

Sound design by Jethro Woodward allowed the show to work like a movie itself and provided many layers to the performance. Lighting design by Andy Turner created anticipation and various moods, and complimented all the other elements. Kudos to the design team for collaboratively bringing a horror and comedy meet-cute to fruition.

While marketed as a horror show, and aside from a few gruesome discoveries within the show itself, the horror movie jump-scare tricks stop there. That being said, there is plenty of silhouetting and what feels like uplighting to distort and create mystery, tension and suspense.

Directed by renowned theatre great, Susie Dee, the show’s series of events unfold with utter perfection and utilise every ounce of the staging. Within the routines, there is so much going on; from actors balancing on and with various items, to the setting up or revealing of props, and then tricks being performed in cannons of action. ‘The Long Pigs’ is mechanical and well-rehearsed and perfectly executed – a testament to the powerhouse of talent behind the show.

Established artists Bartholomew, Mozes and Nicci Wilks were the terrorising trio, acting as the black-nosed clowns and giving their creatures distinction from one another. Bartholomew felt like the chief of the pack, intelligently calculating stock and devouring cake with complete embodied expression. Mozes was the tall masculine figure, filled with equal amounts of deception. And Wilks, while physically the smallest of the bunch, was incredibly impactful in her comedic timing, especially as the underdog of the group. The three worked in complete, tension-filled unison, making for a great ensemble of characters.

‘The Long Pigs’ is unlike any circus show. It is chaotic, gruesome and utterly filthy, but that’s more the reason to enjoy it. While not every clown has to be happy, the clowns in this production are purely entertaining. A pigsty of horror and circus fun.

‘The Long Pigs’ performed until Saturday, 30 April at Metro Arts. For more information about the production, visit the official ‘The Long Pigs’ website.

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