The Boy Who Kicked Pigs

There can be no disputing that Tom Baker is best known and remembered for his tenure on Doctor Who, but that is far from his only work; he was presenter of The Book Tower, had a theatrical career which included a national tour of Educating Rita, was the narrator of Little Britain, and in 1999 he published the illustrated novella The Boy Who Kicked Pigs. Adapted for stage by Kill the Beast, it premiered in Manchester before transferring to a London season, and has now arrived at the Edinburgh Fringe.

A parade of grotesque caricatures in unlikely situations, it tells the story of Robert Caligari, a nasty filthy liar, a punter of pork, a bunter of bacon, a hopeful striker for West Ham, he is the boy who kicked pigs, and the particular pig he kicked was Trevor, gold filled tin piggy bank of Nerys, lonely, sad sister Nerys.

With performances so bold as to be almost confrontational, the miniscule theatre does not hold the performers back, the limited staging enhanced by a series of back projected macabre environments from the bleak pub sign swaying in the wind to the offices of the Kent Clarion, the photocopier flickering and shifting suspiciously, as news editor Wendy Horsebox bemoans that there is no news. “The most we can hope for is a natural disaster and a good set of classifieds.”

Such a disaster waiting to happen is Robert himself; having kicked the piggy bank into the road and instigated a piscatorial pile up when causing Simon’s Mobile Fish Palace to crash (“Like the glistening afterbirth of some kraken”), leading to the subsequent suicide of Simon himself, Robert is sent to a bizarre and unhelpful doctor, but realises that murder is his calling, mass murder. While all children can be cruel, the cruelty of smart, bored children is the most inventive, and realising that poisoning Nerys is insufficient, even while performing his community service, Robert begins to plot his revenge.

With designs inspired by the original illustrations of David Roberts, the influence of Burton and Selick is also apparent in the harsh angular costumes and the deformed props, all rendered in textures of black and white, the actors similarly made up, with creative use of carpet as sideburns, moustaches and other sundries, the multiple characters are performed by the ensemble who conceived and created the show, David Cumming, Natasha Hodgson, Oliver Jones and Zoe Roberts under the direction of Clem Garrity, all of whom deserve either praise or perhaps merciless flogging for the horrors they unleashed upon the audience.

Such a daring and innovative approach to theatre may not be to the taste of all, but when the alternative is the safe mediocrity of musical theatre, the crime is that Kill the Beast have opted to only play a limited run, and it is to be hoped they will return next year to unleash further mayhem and bloodshed.

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs runs until Wednesday 14th August

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