Tom Baker’s ‘The Boy Who Kicked Pigs’ play review

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Sounds bonkers? It is. When we tell you that the source material was a short novel by one-time Doctor Who star and Little Britain narrator Tom Baker, it should make a little more sense.

Kill The Beast are a theatre company made up of five friends who met at university, united by a common interest of grotesque comedy. And if their new production of The Boy Who Kicked Pigs proves anything, it’s that their common interest in the genre has also bred a certain mastery of it.

The plot is too mad to describe in full here, but suffice to say the myriad characters and disparate strands all intertwine and come together in a murky muddle of classified ads, sibling rivalry, talking pigs and murder. Quite a lot of murder.

The vast array of characters are performed by just four of the group – the fifth directs – and their performances are wonderful, without exception. The physical comedy is hilarious – just witness Dave Cumming sashay exaggeratedly across the stage as a campy reporter – while Natasha Hodgson and her skilled bottom lip are equally adept at portraying spoiled, bratty little girls as they are sullen, bored teenage boys.

The costume and set designers deserve credit too. With each player having multiple characters to portray, the costume changes must be quick, and yet with only minimal changes in dress, the distinction between characters is immediate and undeniable.

A range of voices and accents help, and a lot of it is also down to the chameleonic casts uniquely malleable faces, which contort and contract hysterically depending on the part. The grey costumes – all torn, ragged and grey – are complimented by the evocative set-projections which serve as the backdrop; lending the piece a grubby, grimly dystopian feel (you can even view the set-models in the lobby of the theatre).

It’s remarkable when you stop and think that the whole thing is achieved with merely a few stools and a plastic pig in the way of props.

And as for that plastic pig – his name is Trevor, by the way – Kill The Beast manage to completely sell the illusion that he’s a real character. With one of the cast providing Trevor’s voice off-stage, you will completely forget that you’re watching a man interacting with an inanimate object.

The climatic action sequence is a marvel of frantic choreography. The four players careen around the stage, breathlessly delivering lines from multiple characters; a whirling dervish of kinetic energy that will somehow have you on the edge of your seat. There are only four people on stage, but you’ll feel like you’ve genuinely witnessed the mass carnage they’re depicting.

Even the two musical numbers peppered throughout proceedings are a triumph. Initially jarring, you soon find yourself drawn in by their off-beat charms and curious rhythms. Indeed, the cast never miss a beat, and the script rattles along at a furious pace, with more one-liners and quick-fire asides than you can possibly hope to catch in one sitting.

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs is a wonderful achievement. By combining the best comedic elements of Monty Python with the distinct visuals and oddball tone of Terry Gilliam’s filmography, Kill the Beast have set out their stall as worthy pretenders to the throne of surreal comedy.

As brilliant as it is demented, and as hilarious as it is twisted. You’ll leave with your cheeks hurting and your mind sullied. What more could you ask of a night out?

Performing at Jacksons Lane in London from Tuesday 5 March to Saturday 16 March 2013.

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