The Pitchfork Disney takes place in the world of twins Presley and Haley Stray. Their permanent state of nightmarish abandonment sees these two adults exist within their deceased parents house, surviving mainly on a diet of chocolate and sleeping pills. Their mannerisms and speech are childlike within the confinement of their self-made prison. There is a mystery as to their age to start with, they could be teenagers or children?
The Q Loft is engulfed by the play, the set sprawling out to the audience, lobby and stairwell. This helps to get you into the mind-set of the trapped and isolated lives of the characters you are about to meet.
Something terrible happened to their parents but we don’t know what, only that it happened years ago. Having created a post-apocalyptic wasteland on the outside which keeps them locked up inside, they spend their time in perpetual fear, telling scary and stomach churning stories. Even when they reminisce about their childhood the stories always have a gruesome or distressing twist.
One night Presley sees two men outside their house. Once Haley has fallen into her drug induced sleep Presley invites one of the men in. Enter Cosmo Disney. This arrogant, intimidating and questionable character intrigues and excites Presley. He’s well turned out with a perfect appearance from head to toe. As the characters converse a second outsider enters, the terrifying masked Pitchfork Cavalier.
Michelle Blundell plays the desperate Haley. Her portrayal of this damaged and vulnerable woman is powerful and engaging allowing for some creepy childlike behaviour. Her monologues allow her to be playful, where she gets lots of laughs; however she maintains the edge of a frightened and disturbed young women. Blundell spends much of the play within Haley’s nightmares, but her impact at the start of the play allows us to continue to sympathise with her character and hope for her safety.
Todd Emerson as Presley truly excels in what could almost be a one man show. The power of his delivery balances perfectly the need for terror and likability. I found my focus to be on him even when the other characters were drawing attention. They appear almost like an internal conflict pushing him into confronting his nightmares. He performs the most powerful scene in the play with maturity. Taking us on a journey which shows the intensity of the emotions our dreams and fears have on us. I both liked and worried for Presley all alone in his own head. Emerson does well to communicate Presley’s internal struggles in an affectionate and compassionate way.
The intruder Cosmo Disney is wonderfully cast as Leon Wadham. His fresh faced look allows him to glitter in this decrepit set. Wadham struts around the spacious room with power, purpose and poise. He’s alluring and intriguing while always maintaining his sinister undertone. He contradicts the ‘wasteland’ stories as he proves the existence of the world outside, albeit still a terrible one. His sudden confrontation into the twin’s home forces Presley to question what happened to their parents, while Haley writhes around on the sofa fighting her night terrors. The threat of a sexual motive is always underlying and it is uncomfortable watching Presley squirm around this confronting, and often sleazy looking character. Wadham has a particularly difficult scene in which he fully commits, allowing him to deliver the disturbing truth of Cosmo Disney in a conceivable manner.
The terrifying addition of Sam Snedden’s Pitchfork Cavalier sent the audience recoiling in their seats as he brought an alarming and bothersome atmosphere to the stage. Dressed all in black and a gimp mask, he moves slowly around our protagonists getting unnervingly close. A fantastic presence which, if you weren’t already, brings you into this nightmare.
This symbolic and dreamlike play by Philip Ridley is now over 20 years old. Its themes and message about fear and isolation still hit the spot. The provocative characters confront our fears and I felt that Presley was being forced to do just that in what was possibly his worst ever nightmare. Its appeal may be in Cosmo Disney’s words ‘You know why the ghost train is so popular? Because there are no ghosts. Once you know that you can make a fortune.’
This hugely talented cast, from Moving Theatre Company, deliver a wonderfully surreal and disturbing theatrical experience where confrontation cannot be avoided. Confront your fears and enter your dreams. Allow The Pitchfork Disney to open your mind.
Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar