Review: Pig Farm

November 4, 2015
  • Rating: ★★★☆☆
St James Theatre

It’s an apt time to pen a comedy about pigs and Greg Kotis – writer of last year’s musical hit Urinetown – does so with some style, if little substance. The action takes place on the eve of a federal government visit to an intensive pig farm. A wayward young farmhand is instructed to count the pigs – roughly 15,000 of them – while the farmer dumps a truckload of faecal sludge in the river. Cue lots of repetition of the phrase “faecal sludge”. Faecal sludge. It really never gets old.

Pig Farm is essentially a pastiche of the “death of the American dream” drama, with salt-of-the-earth workers of the land drowning in a metaphorical sea of circumstances, and literal sea of poo. The acting from the four-person cast is bang-on – especially oily G-man Teddy – each capturing the hopelessness of the situation without sacrificing levity. One stand-out scene sees Tom describe the reaction of two lovers skinny-dipping in the river as his torrent of pig muck engulfs them, bringing to mind the state of his own marriage.

It’s not all toilet humour – the writing is rapid-fire and razor-sharp, with plenty of wordplay to please Radio 4 listeners. One running gag is that every character’s name begins with “T”, leading to some dizzying alliterative loops. The last act, however, burns the bacon somewhat, with an overcooked finale that feels off-kilter with the tight structure that runs though the rest of the play.

While it shares the theatrical silliness of Urinetown, it lacks its predecessor’s piercing social commentary; there’s a wider message to be found here about sustainability but you have to look quite hard for it. That’s only a partial deal-breaker, though: Pig Farm is still good, dirty fun.

First published in City A.M.