I was amazed that someone wanted to do it on stage. When I wrote the piece it was obvious to me I could not write about a good boy. Who wants to read about a good boy? So I piled on the awfulness and everybody laughed – Tom Baker
As soon as I heard about this adaptation coming to the stage, I snapped up tickets as soon as I could. Written by Tom Baker (knowing Tom, presumably after many drinks. Then again, knowing Tom, he probably doesn’t need to drink to think this story up!) it tells the tale of a boy, Robert, who ‘likes to kick pigs’ and generally wreak havoc for people. I’m sure we’ve met children like him! The story is very cartoonish but does show what impact misbehaving can achieve. The theatre company Kill The Beast seem to revel in bringing this cartoonish violence to life and you can see that, just by watching this performance. It’s something that’ll be difficult to put together if its cast and crew ‘didn’t get it’ but this one does.
Taking place in one of upstairs studios, this intimate venue seemed perfect, as this 4 person-strong cast filled the stage out brilliantly. I’m not really that much of an experienced theatre goer (but probably will be soon, thanks to this) but I very much enjoyed it, laughed nearly all the way through and picked up those things I learned at school about drama, which have long escaped my mind! Though I felt really sorry for the people in the front row - the graphic violence must have seemed very different up close, as my Missus commentated!
The play was advertised for ‘people 12 and over’ but there were clearly some kids in the audience far younger who enjoyed it. In fact, it’s funny to see the comparison between Pigs and Doctor Who – suitable for families, with both adults and children taking something different away after watching it. The humour, though pretty violent at times, is very much done in the style of a cartoon and it fits perfectly with the setting of the book. It’s fast-paced in all the right places, but yet slows down at the right times for you to take in those all important story-changing scenes. Good direction needs good actors of course, and the 4 of them that act this out do an amazing job in bringing it to life. The actor who plays Robert uses a very distinctive voice and it just strikes you of belonging to the trouble-making child that Robert is. Or a ‘little shit’ as we would say. The other roles aren’t gender-specific, so we get some really great turns from the female actors who play males, which just adds to the cartoon-humour aspect of it all. Things like this can tend to slip into Pantomine mode, and as much as I love a Pantomine, I don’t particularly feel threatened by one and I don’t really learn anything (apart from the bloke playing the Dame looks good in a dress) but with Pigs it’s the complete opposite (although the Gentlemen in this do look quite fetching in a dress). The cast (who also contributed to the writing) and crew somehow manage to present a slightly-updated adaptation of the book and bring it to life, which is all you can really ask for, from an adaptation!
The show was part of an ‘In Studio Development’ program that The Lowry runs and I was most impressed with their general attitude towards developing talent. On the way to the studio, we passed a few classrooms used for educating and the many programmes they had advertised. I just feel that in today’s world, where they spend millions of pounds on facilities and expect an immediate return, that not enough emphasis is put on trying to develop talent for the future, it should be about working hard and learning, so it’s wonderful that a new venue like this specialises in that area. And the ticket price wasn’t too expensive either!
And after dismissing Tom Baker and Ian Marter’s idea for ‘Doctor Who Meets Scratchman’ as utterly bonkers, maybe there was something in it after all? On the balance of this story, I think it’s a great shame Tom hasn’t written any more stories. He (I’m sure all those who’ve seen him at a convention know) has a great talent for telling a tale. Most of them mask a meaning, a lesson if you will, very much like The Boy Who Kicked Pigs.
Kill The Beast will now be working with The Lowry on other projects. We hope they’ll get the chance to tour Pigs, beyond their Edinburgh appearance next year. Any Doctor Who convention people reading must book them for an appearance. (And put us down for some tickets too!)