Directors Sean Richards and Tom Leatherbarrow chose not to conform to the usual programme of three short plays to which ‘A Gaggle of Saints‘ belongs. Instead, they attached it to Enda Walsh‘s ‘Disco Pigs,’ a play differing entirely in pace and female characters, but continues to match the violent intensity of its male protagonists. Drawn together, these two converse performances provided an intense hour and a half of drama for their show at the Fleeting Arms, York.
A Gaggle of Saints
The first of the two plays, ‘A Gaggle of Saints,’ tells of a young Mormon couple, Sue (Zoe Bile) and John (Oliver-Patrick Henn), who each recount the events of their anniversary weekend in New York. Due to the minimalist setting the audiences’ attention is focused entirely on the two characters seated centre stage. John and Sue barely move on their chairs and they remain separated from each other, a gripping outset was not maintained throughout. Some inadequacies of the script were difficult to overcome, such as the nonchalant babbling about clothing the two protagonists engage in. Despite the lull in pace that this created, it also exhibited the characters’ innocence and so proved worthwhile for developing an understanding of the couple’s behaviour.
In her presentation of Sue, Bile offered a convincing depiction of a giddy young American girl in love, whereas Henn’s John was sombre, and provided a strength that his other half appeared to lack. The couple were not particularly engaging at first, perhaps due to the weaknesses in the script. However a later development in the plot provided a change in Henn’s character that proved capable of securing the audience’s attention. As he recalled witnessing two middle-aged gay lovers, John became tense, clenching his fists and screwing his face in disgust. This subtle script interpretation gave the audience an early indication to the potential of violence in John’s character. It was a change that renewed faith in the intense atmosphere initially exhibited and foregrounded later developments perfectly.
The proximity of the actors, sat side by side, fed the audience’s frustration perfectly
Further in to the production, John’s volume climbed along with his disgust for the previously encountered men, heightening the tension considerably. As a graphic description of a deathly beating ensued by John, Sue’s blasé attitude remained, yet she stuttered over her words, paused at just the right moments and was almost able to convince the audience that she has a deeper understanding of the events committed by John, despite his attempt at hiding them. The proximity of the actors, sat side by side, fed the audience’s frustration perfectly. The couple were utterly unaware of events taking place in each other’s lives. This was a dichotomy set by the writing but the close staging, combined with successful performances, rendered this tension captivating.
Lust for the ensuing beating was seen in John’s animated actions, at odds with his placid appearance; he became riled to the point of nearly rising from his chair. This movement heightened his portrayal of anger and immediately made John a character to be feared. Despite the conclusive scene, which depicted John and Sue embracing and laughing, (John’s earlier outburst pervaded their happiness with the unsettling memory of his more violent character), the overwhelming effect of nervousness in the audience was enhanced.
‘Disco Pigs’ followed shortly after providing an immediate contrast to the sombre beginning of ‘A Gaggle of Saints.’ This is a tale of two Irish teenagers born seconds apart. By developing their own language, names and way of life, they isolate themselves from the outside world. The invented language along with the fast paced accent that seemed to be too quick at times and proved difficult to follow. Nevertheless, when combined with music and an active use of staging, this created a secluded world that Runt (Kate Burke) and Pig (Ant Noonan) appeared comfortable in together. This vigorous atmosphere proved a welcome contrast following such an intense opening play.
This second show was filled with well-timed humour, and a series of emotional scenes carried out with intense energy. A well-maintained pace was essential and both Burke and Noonan rose to the challenge, interpreting their complex relationship that developed across the play and exhibiting the protagonists’ thoughts with impressive clarity.
The link between the two plays was secured in the conclusion
Pig was volatile and Runt was seemingly naïve, yet content to be so. The rise and fall in Pig’s volume throughout the show displayed the varied attitudes he had towards the world and the people around him; intolerant for the most part and far too protective of his naïve companion. Runt’s childish actions and girlish voice, highlighted her innocence perfectly and so elevated her shock when Pig made his initial sexual advances. These actions were not as surprising to the audience who – due to this successfully portrayed , fluctuating character – had witnessed Pig’s violent tendencies through the play.
The link between the two plays was secured in the conclusion. Pig’s actions became highly animated in the beating scene. His large figure appeared intimidating against Burke’s small frame highlighted further as she stepped to the back of the stage, Runt’s speech became thoughtful, and a clarity was seen from her earlier confusion to Pig’s actions. This provided a shocked, chilling reflection for the audience. Unlike Sue, Runt decided to abstain from the company of her male companion, and the audience was left comparing the two female protagonists in their choices of staying or leaving their male partner.
The Double Bill was emotional and intimidating, yet won the heart’s of the audience by the end of the evening; I eagerly await Sean and Tom next plays in the future.