King of Pigs, staged by Redline Productions, is a must-see show. Written by Steve Rodger, it deals with difficult but vital topics surrounding the treatment of women and domestic violence in a tasteful yet heartbreaking way. King of Pigs is an affecting and beautiful performance, establishing first-time director Blazey Best as a powerful force in theatre.
King of Pigs presents four different families and explores each of their varied experiences with domestic violence and abuse. Ella Scott-Lynch plays the female counterpart in each relationship and her male partners are played by Mick Bani, Ashley Hawkes, Christian Byers and Kire Tosevski. The decision to have one woman paired with a cast of four men was a clever one, as it spoke to the hegemonic experience of abuse borne by women but which remains an individual experience for men.
Best commented that she “just wanted to do what felt right,” when it came to the production; a simple statement which nonetheless translated throughout. King of Pigs was a raw and honest portrayal of a difficult issue, that avoided didactically delivering its message. It brilliantly staged a variety of stories, yet ones that are all too familiar: “There seems to be an epidemic of this sort of violence towards women, it’s just happening so much. It feels urgent to look at it,” Best said.
King of Pigs acts as a mirror into the lives of so many women and forces the audience to reconsider their own interactions and their own lives. Rather than simply staging instances of domestic violence, King of Pigs confronts the language which we use to communicate issues of violence towards women. Far too often, abusers become monsters, thus dehumanising them and ultimately allowing us to slip into the mindset of separating an act of abuse from those who perpetrate them. Best noted, “I just wanted to tell the story about people, not about bad men but about people, it’s too easy with an issue like violence against women to say it’s bad men who do it. It’s easy to compartmentalise the world that way.”
One of the most striking aspects of the piece is the way it interrogates the broad spectrum of abuse, not just the most extreme circumstances. “There’s issues of control and power that exist in most relationships,” highlighted Best. What also stood out was how it’s not always only men who participate in such destructive behaviour and language, but how women normalise or perpetuate it by using victim blaming language.
Another unique aspect of the play was that it did not just look at how men treated women, but considered where repair needs to begin. Wylie Best and Thom Blake played a young child. The boys altered nights, I was lucky enough to see Wylie Best’s brilliant performance. His portrayal left audiences feeling hopeful for better future.
The set by Isabel Hudson within the confines of the small stage of The Old Fitz was incredibly simple yet achieved all that it needed to. Verity Hampson’s lighting design was able to transport the set to so many different settings. The lighting eerily matched the realism of the show, and despite being very minimal, it filled the stage well.
Ella Scott-Lynch’s performance was a stand out. She brought lightness and beauty to the piece, while also showing the gut-wrenchingly honest impact that violence has on women. Her performance was captivating and exciting to watch. She switched between her different characters well, bringing individuality to each of them but still demonstrating a similarity to showcase the collective experience.
Best commented that she wanted the audience to feel “challenged and maybe even hopeful, but I don’t want it to be a comfortable night at the theatre,” - which it was not, although it still was exceptionally entertaining. She also noted the impact of theatre: “there’s an immediacy … that can make you feel and think when you’re sharing it with people”. Watching this production was difficult due to its brutal honestly, yet for the same reason, it was a brilliant experience that shed much-needed light on a very real, close-to-home issue.
King of Pigs continues until September 1.
Buy tickets here: https://www.redlineproductions.com.au/king-of-pigs