Wednesday, January 20, 2010

PIG: A Peep Show of Forbidden Acts From the Farm, January 2009

Showing a real sense of that prairie tenacity, PIG in its fourth reincarnation remains to entertain with equal parts gore and show tunes.

Touching down on all themes taboo from religion, vagina puppetry, to cannibalism, PIG loosely plays off the notion of pig as the beast, or the synonym for the basest of human nature. The show’s grotesque clown burlesque cabaret has moved away from its original inspiration by the Pickton murder trials to come into its own horror peep show of our insatiable enjoyment of crude violence, especially its conflation with the morally depraved behaviors of sexualized women.

The basic narrative of PIG follows sweet orphaned ugly duckling Saskatchewan Magnunson (Georgina Beatty) as she is invited to join the Christian tent meeting of the glamazon Evangeline Evangelista (Joelle Prefontaine) and the slickest sickest Bible salesman, Harry Peacjock (Jesse Gervais). Gervais sets the tone for the show, reveling in the garish persona of Peacjock (the J is silent) and the individual peeps into the lives of each girl (Caitlin Fulton, Andraea Sartison, Ryland Alexander, and Ava Markus round out the cast), but the narrative isn’t what pushes this two hour show along--not for a minute. Moving at break neck speed with a flurry of fishnets, pink frills, gold lamé, lacquered heels, rubber boots, an army of blonde bob wigs, PIG drags you, often more than willingly, into a downward spiral of depravity and disappointment--the two main themes running through playwright and Grinder actress Kristine Nutting’s work.

Self-reflexively describing itself as a show with “no story, just entertainment”, PIG’s biggest challenge is also its biggest draw: that it is just too damn entertaining. Accompanied by an all star live band led by Curtis Ross (along with Cam Boyce, Silas Grenis, and Jason Kodie), it is undeniable the music becomes the backbone to the show, and proves that everything--even classic rock hits--can be perverted into catchy cabaret numbers. No matter how dark the material may actually be, from the interplay of family, acceptance, and ultimate disappointment, to sexual abuse, and suppression of desires and identities, the audience is too enthralled in the pure spectacle of the production (and rightly so) to notice the conflicting ethics of enjoying sex and violence in a show that is ultimately critiquing our culture’s obsession with sex and violence.

Playing with minor elements of physical theatre, silhouettes, and pyrotechnics, all of the show’s lavish production values seemed to click in the traditional theatre setting of the L’unitheatre. Building out a catwalk stage and rigging a stripper pole with cabaret style seating, the illusion of the show--for once--did not compete with its venue. As a non site specific show, PIG was able to communicate that missing piece of the puzzle that was lost every time the public audience stepped into a genuine strip club and became a patron of the club more so than an audience member for the show. The re-creation of the atmosphere was far more powerful than using the real thing, perhaps because this time, it rang loud and clear that the audience remains the most disturbing aspect of the show. With a few of the darkest moments pushing past the guts and glamour of the production and into the one-liners that feed directly off the facts and figures of prostitution, from Johns with backseat baby seats and the invisibility of Aboriginal prostitutes disappearing, to the point blank question of "Do you think killing girls is funny?", the roar of the audience’s laughter and delight is in fact the real cannibalism that occurs.

If you can get past the distraction of blood and guts, often covering your clothes at the end of the show, past the glamourosity in the name of funsies, PIG may be one of the most depressing theatre shows you’ll ever thoroughly enjoy sitting through.

Photos by Marc Chalifoux and Jay Procktor

PIG continues as part of Workshop West's Canoe Festival in Edmonton and High Performance Rodeo in Calgary

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