The Pitchfork Disney is proving itself a relatively timeless play, now entering its 26th year of life. One of the key instigators of a movement epitomised by the likes of Kane and Butterworth, it was nevertheless Ridley who came first, giving us permission to enter the distorted, fractured world of twins Presley and Haley, dealing with terrors of their subconscious in a chocolate-obsessed state. Slowly, inevitably for those who know the play, the red sequinned jacket of Cosmo appears, alongside his incredibly energetic compatriot.
This is a special production – the basement of Shoreditch Town Hall transformed into an immersive take on Ridley’s space, all of which held together through the machinations of Jamie Lloyd, fresh from his bout of West End shows including both the stellar production of Richard III and the somewhat divisive Dr Faustus at the Trafalgar Studios. Seeing Lloyd now turning his attentions to an immersive one-act show, set in one room, over one continuous period, with a cast of four, was therefore something invigorating – moving the director away from grand, sweeping stagings and letting audiences see where he cut his teeth up close and very much personal.
A project seven years in the making, the true love of the source material is clear to see – every line carefully fine-tuned by cast and director to bring out both the character voices and those of Ridley himself. Sometimes the twangs of infantile naivety combined with an East London accent felt entirely reminiscent of the last Ridley play to be revived in London – Tonight with Donny Stixx at the Bunker – where the same accent and concepts of childish obliviousness were also dabbled in. At times this felt almost too similar for its own good – something that may simply, however, be based on the reviewer’s own experience. The show nevertheless felt worlds away (literally) from Ridley’s 2016 endeavour Karagula – here the overall design and performance no longer needing to commit so much energy to building up a tangible, fully fleshed out world. The narrowing of the lens was, as expected, effective.
The show could never had succeeded without Soutra Gilmour’s set design contributing to the overall impact, and the ramshackle room of naked lightbulbs, decaying fridges and all manner of potential seating locations for audiences created an eerily low-lit environment, almost a de-facto stage in traverse. Lighting, while minimally placed from Richard Howell, also worked effectively.
In such a small space, the show rests on its ability for the actors to feel natural placed mere centimetres from their spectators – especially when there’s nowhere to hide. George Blagden and Hayley Squires as the two central twins have the hardest job of this perhaps, responsible for constructing the tone and rhythm of the play in the opening passages, before Tom Rhys Harries’s Cosmo storms in to mix-up proceedings. Rhys Harries was especially marvellous here – his Cosmo not capable simply of conforming to the showman-esque facade of the character, but also revealing some deep emotional affectation in later moments, especially during Blagden’s extensive and tightly fraught dream-monologue. Seun Shote’s Pitchfork, always the last to arrive to the party though often the hardest part to pull off, was a genuine terror in the show’s closing moments.
With an extensive run, The Pitchfork Disney will be haunting the underbelly of Shoreditch’s Town Hall for a few weeks to come – a theatrical experience rarely given such star calibre and certainly worth investigating for theatre enthusiasts.