Saturday, 31 October 2015

'Pig Farm' St James Theatre ****

Running any business will inevitably have its high and low points in the seasons, and this includes the farming trade where farmers’ animals are their business and economical driving force, although what transpires when an annual inspection goes hook line and sinker wrong, what impact will this cause a farm? The St James Theatre’s present production of Greg Kotis’ 2006 play, ‘Pig Farm’ was a really original piece on the world of pig farming in the United States, what is more, the performances were gleaming all round.

‘Pig Farm’ is set in the kitchen of farmer, Tom and his wife, Tina’s farm house where the farm in at the crux of being declared bankrupt so they are busy getting ready for an inspection by the Environmental Protection Agency.  Even though they are struggling to make ends meet they have employed recent release from juvenile detention centre, Tim to be Tom’s apprentice as this is a part of the conditions Tim has in not being sent back to the centre. Tom has problems with intoxication and is particularly violent to Tim as he has just dumped some manure onto two teenagers by the stream who are having a sexual experience. As such this is causing troubles with his and Tina’s marriage and he is unaware that Tina has been having an affair with Tim behind his back as Tom is not providing her with the love she most desires. Tim becomes besotted by Tina and this is somewhat reciprocated but ever so slightly. Tina is frantic to become a mother yet Tom is not so keen to be a parent due to his insecurities. Over the course of the performance, Tom and Tim are trembling about the outcome of the pig count and when Tom learns that the neighbouring farm has been forced to close due to the fact that the farmer has too many pigs that is allowed for a farm of that size, this understandably set some alarm bells ringing in his ears. However, when Teddy from the EPA arrives with his team to inspect the farm and the numbers of the pigs, Tim is told that as Tom is comfortable with being a father, this upsets Tim and he is ready to conjure up some revenge as he is in love with Tina. This is completed when Tim drives a tractor into the pig shed and all of the pigs try to escape and run all around the farm. Tim all battered and bruised is brought into the kitchen by Tom and Tina, but Teddy informs Tom that the pig count was under counted and it is Tim who has done this. Tom is furious about this and requests that Tim leaves, but he doesn’t. Teddy states that the farm will have to be closed as they have broken the rules and regulations. Tom then turbulently unleashes some violent force on Tim as he has ruined his business and in unfixable and he learns of Tina indiscretions. At the finale, Teddy makes Tom an offer on the farm as he feels that he will do a much better job in which he pressurises Tom and Tina to think about what is best for their future and they do so as they are thinking of starting a family. Kotis’ narrative is grand as we can see how the agricultural industries have always battled against the technical advancements and with someone double-crossing the farm from inside the unit, is the farming industry dead in the water?

One found the performances by the company of, ‘Pig Farm’ to be illustriously depicted by pretty good accent Southern American accents throughout and impeccable characterisations at all times in the show. Dan Fredenburgh is delightful as farmer, Tom; especially when he is endeavouring to fight for his career against a ferocious system and how he becomes morose as he tries to explain why he dumped all the manure on the teenagers as that was the spot where he and Tina made love as teenagers. Eric Odom is tasteful as scallywag hired-hand, Tim; mainly how he is becomes emotionally broken as Tina has lead him along a path that he will not be successful in finishing, furthermore at the end of the play where he is beaten to near death by Tom he presents some real comic flair as he comes back to life. Charlotte Parry is wonderful as Tom’s wife, Tina; mainly where we see how keen she is to be pregnant and to be a mother, moreover we see her despondence by the fact that she has to perform all the household chores and this leads her to not doing Tom’s washing where he only has a pair of old dungarees available to wear. Stephen Tompkinson is superb as EPA inspector, Teddy; expressly where we see how he is in fact a hands on person who becomes very dirty due to the fact that the pigs have shattered all across the farm and this instigates him wanting to be the owner of the farm. 

Katharine Farmer’s direction is majestic here as she has been able to engross us into how all forms of work have a duty and a purpose in the world and how Kotis’ plotline conveys that dysfunctionality between Tom, Tina and Tim suggests how the farm and their unit will only survive if they work together properly and efficiently. Carla Goodman’s set and costume designs are gob-smackingly good as we have been transported to the environment of an American pig farm with such precision and ease to brilliant scenic construct and effortless scenic art, you can imagine what it would be like in such atmospheres. Overall, the experience of, ‘Pig Farm’ was an intriguing take on how farming is like any other industry where anything is not stable in a precarious world where anything can happen.

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