Theatre review: The Pitchfork Disney, Glasgow

Philip Ridley's The Pitchfork Disney. Picture: Facebook
Philip Ridley's The Pitchfork Disney. Picture: Facebook
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IT’S one hell of a play, Philip Ridley’s The Pitchfork Disney. First seen in 1991, and hailed as a masterpiece by fans of this most lurid and uncompromising of English writers, this 105-minute nightmare for four actors tells the story of a strange brother and sister, Presley and Hayley, who live alone in a house which they imagine standing in a devastated landscape, after some nuclear holocaust.

The Pitchfork Disney - The Tron, Glasgow

****

For the first half of the play, they amuse one another by recounting hideous dream-like scenarios of horrors they have experienced, on their rare trips outside, until their routine is interrupted by the arrival of a sinister, amoral stranger, who wears a sparkling red jacket, and says his name is Cosmo Disney. In this play, Ridley examines the human fascination with violence and horror with such gloating pleasure that to watch it is often to feel trapped in the brain of the kind of eight-year-old boy who enjoys boiling frogs and pulling the legs off insects.

Yet there’s a powerful sense of drama here, as three enigmatic male figures – Presley, Cosmo, Cosmo’s sidekick Pitchfork – circle around the vulnerable sleeping figure of Hayley.

And it’s a tension captured with impressive skill and feeling in Eve Nicol’s production for the new Glasgow theatre company Heroes, which features a stunning trio of performances from Lucy Goldie, Alan MacKenzie and Stephen Humpage.

The Pitchfork Disney is a horror show, no question; but there’s a deep artistry here and a searing vividness of imagination that leaves audiences shocked and subtly changed.