Enda Walsh ‘s Disco Pigs as both stage play and film adaptation, the latter directed by Kirsten Sheridan, launched the career of a certain young Cillian Murphy. I’ve seen a pretty underwhelming recent version of the play, to be honest, but the 2001 film is wonderful: a blistering and beautiful concoction, with Murphy as Pig/Darren and an equally matched Elaine Cassidy co -starring as Runt/Sinead.
Pig and Runt, a la Pulp’s Disco 2000, are two protagonists who were born very close together on the same day, but unlike Jarvis’ character and Deborah, are inseparable from the moment they’re spat out into the world. So forms an unnaturally close, unhealthy attachment, where the pair (also neighbours who hold hands through their house walls) rampage through ‘Pork’, or rather Cork, in Ireland, stealing booze, ritually humiliating people in bars, and in Pig’s case, beating the shit out of boys.
It’s like Cocteau’s Les Enfants Terribles for the Trainspotting generation, in many ways, albeit with pals, until Pig finds himself developing feelings for his best friend, who doesn’t really reciprocate. The duo speak in their own bizarre language, part babytalk, part Cork slang, which reinforces their strange pairing. They’re sealed off from the real world in their own dangerous double act.
There are of course, comparisons to be found in A Clockwork Orange and Heavenly Creatures, but Walsh’s dialect makes it highly distinct from both, and as the pair are present in almost every scene, there’s more of a sense of claustrophobia.The closest film to it is arguably another Irish classic meditation on kids with no moral compass, The Butcher Boy (which I’ll profile soon).
Murphy and Cassidy make a beautiful duo, and Murphy’s good looks and sweet smile only makes his wanton acts of violence all the more shocking: he’s a smiling assassin. Runt essentially goes along to get along out of fear, until the full extent of Pig’s awful behaviour dawns on her. It’s increasingly clear he’s a psychopath, completely bereft of empathy or conscience. She wants out – particularly now she’s got an eye for the local lads.
As the tale unfolds, the shifting power dynamic is drawn out to the point of discomfort. There’s no happy ending here, no-one to save these troubled kids, and The Palace is only a local nightclub. Runt has to learn how to individuate, without her King, and go it alone as an unappointed Queen. It’s a sad, funny, visceral tale, with a sting at the end like a scorpion. Tommy Shelby was surely part of Pig’s DNA.