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The Pitchfork Disney, Shoreditch Town Hall, review: ‘A nightmarish vision’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 13 February 2017

The Pitchfork Disney at Shoredtich Town Hall, George Blagden. Picture: Matt Humphrey

The Pitchfork Disney at Shoredtich Town Hall, George Blagden. Picture: Matt Humphrey

© Matt Humphrey 2017

In Jamie Lloyd’s intimate remount of this seminal 90s in-yer-face play, the audience hunker down on ramshackle furniture

So many things can burn us up through no fault of our own,” is the lament in Philip Ridley’s dystopian fable The Pitchfork Disney, fittingly staged in one of Shoreditch Town Hall’s claustrophobic basement rooms.

In Jamie Lloyd’s intimate remount of this seminal 90s in-yer-face play, the audience hunker down on ramshackle furniture to immerse themselves in Ridley’s nightmarish vision of lives paralysed by fear and neglect.

Adult twins Haley (Haley Squires) and Presley (George Blagden) conjure up narratives of a nuclear apocalypse. Like Hansel and Gretel, their parents have left or lost them and they confuse the terms repeatedly.

Stuck in a fantasy of an idealised childhood, they survive on chocolate and self medicate with rations of unnamed medicines.

But the heavy bolts on their front door cannot protect them against Presley’s closet desire for the luminous stranger he spots through a window, Disney (rising star Tom Rhys Harries).

With his chiseled cheekbones and cocky demeanor, Harries’ Disney is an incarnation that’s part East End spiv, part game show host. It’s Disney’s deep-seated phobia of being touched that underscores the drama.

References to Aids and metaphorical allusions to alienated lives are key. When Disney’s accomplice Pitchfork (Seun Shote) turns up in a gimp mask, trembling and spluttering like a manifestation of cumulative contemporary horrors, the prognosis for the twins isn’t good.

Ridley’s writing refutes easy thematic connections and while the broad brushstrokes of agoraphobia and abuse are clear, it’s the elliptical poetry that gives this nightmare vision its full potency. Lloyd draws ghoulish humour out of the dynamic performances.

While there’s not much downtime, Squires pulls focus when Hayley sleeps, a highly sexualised object for Disney as she sucks on her dummy. With global news in chaos, the play feels chillingly prophetic. “Boo,” shouts the gimp man, then laughs. Scared now?

Rating: 4/5 stars

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