This is a tricky one. The write up says that this is a play which examines ethical farm practices and may put you off your pie. This is not quite what we get. It is not ‘Fun’ but it is ‘Food, Drink and Drama’. Or did I miss something?
I take three friends with me –we are all women, all farmers and two of us keep pigs. We discuss the play we have seen and the pie we have eaten a lot. In fact, we talk about it over chips later on Penarth Pier and again in the week. It has made us think. But perhaps not in the way Playwright Kelly Jones would like us to.
Cast members Sally Reid, Michele Gallagher and Clare Cage
Photographic credit Kirsten McTernan
It is a play about 3 little pigs, 3 women acting as pigs and as women. They are in a trailer heading for the slaughter house. Their actions and conversations are an odd mixture of supposed pig talk and young women chatter. They grunt occasionally. One is a cross carrying faithful type who misses her sister, one is a punky type who misses her lover and the other is a party going good time girl. A bit stereotypical. They work out that they are not going to a show but to the abattoir and so forth.
Now here’s a problem. Facts. Anyone who knows anything about pigs, knows that they don’t carry hairbrushes or wear crosses. They also don’t get electric shocks for bad behaviour when they squeal in a trailer. They might wander into a shed to watch a farmer, er, enjoy himself but we are pretty sure that we don’t know anyone who finds pigs that attractive.
When they talk about life, death and the lack of control over their lives, something resonates with me. Do they contemplate the meaning of life? Do we, as owners, play God?
Pigs are fun to be around precisely because they are calculating, funny and usually, miles ahead of their keepers. But we keep them also because they can be eaten. The speech at the end, before they trot out to their doom, is tediously predictable and aimed at converting the audience to vegetarianism, I think. My colleagues are not impressed and feel that this last scene spoils an otherwise interesting and thought-provoking play.
Then we have the after-show discussion. Lots of people have stayed behind for this and we are keen to debate the ideas raised in the performance.
But there is a surprise. Jones take an unexpected stance. She tells us about tattooed pigs and cruelty. She then explains that the play is actually about feminism; she uses the pigs to slaughter as metaphor for seeing women as meat, as bodies to be cut up into pieces, as porn, as without control. Oh. I see now. This makes sense of scenes previously lost to me.
We discuss life and end of life, self-determinism, women’s rights, farming practices and eating meat. The audience is enthusiastic and picks up a particular thread with zeal: why have a play about killing animals and then give us a meat pie? Where does that meat come from, asks another. But it’s about women, not pigs, really.
We get it.
It makes even more sense when Jones explains to me that she had taken a 1hr40min play and made it into a 40min production. Sometimes, we need to rewrite not just slash and edit or we lose the meaning of a piece. The playwright cannot attend every production to explain. The metaphor is clever, her idea is sound and with tweaking, would make an outstanding work.
I looked up the use of tattooed pigs for handbags – can’t be true, we said, but it was: art as an excuse for profit. Deeply shocking. I can see where she is coming from and Jones definitely is on to something here.
Enjoyed: 10th November, 2016 at The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
Playwright: Kelly Jones
Director: Kenny Miller
Coco Clare Cage
Lacey Michele Gallagher
Viv Sally Reid