A table, some chairs, scattered straw and a fence are the only props on the compact set of The Three Little Pigs. But the extraordinarily talented Rob van Vuuren, James Cairns and Albert Pretorius don’t need much more than their own skills to bring this dark story to life.
With the last little pig left distraught from the recent slaughter of his two brothers, it’s up to a chicken and a goat to investigate the brutal murders. Together with acclaimed director Tara Notcutt, van Vuuren, Cairns and Pretorius have taken a concept as simple as a children’s tale and turned it into a psychological spoof thriller. And there are layers upon layers involved. As with George Orwell’s Animal Farm the story is a euphemism for societal problems, and audience members in the know will enjoy the references to the politics of the media and government in South Africa today. It deals with corruption, innocent deaths, manipulation, and the media’s overarching power in setting the agenda of news for the public. As the programme notes say, “We didn’t so much write this play as just read the newspapers.”
There is a gaping difference between a cheap horror that has you laughing at its amateur production and one that has you screaming with fear, and Three Little Pigs is absolutely gripping. More than once I found myself hiding underneath my partner’s arm. The show captivates from beginning to end, with the audience rooting all the way for the Little Pig, perfectly played by van Vuuren.
Besides the obvious talent of these three actors, who all play multiple roles, the production is given an impressive fluidity by the subtle changes in lighting and character with each consecutive scene. Matt Lansing’s lighting design is a faultless match for the startling adaptability of Cairns, van Vuuren and Pretorius. One minute we see a bright interrogation room with a traumatized Little Pig being terrorized by brutish investigators, while the next we have leapt back in time to a wolf strip club with Little Pig’s two self-serving brothers hounding Sparkle the Seductive Cat for the location of the Big Bad Wolf. The actors have the diverse characterisation and scene-jumps nailed – what chameleons!
An intimate hour in the Golden Arrow Studio with Three Little Pigs is thorough entertainment. Not only is it dark, thrilling, and intellectual, but it has an unexpected twist and a mesmeric plot that keeps you intrigued and wondering when the Big Bad Wolf is coming for you. All of this as well as a good few bursts of embarrassing and much too loud laughter is what makes great theatre. It was near perfection – so it’s hardly fair to mention a few slip ups in their lines. After all, they’re only human.
by Kristan Wood
Three Little Pigs runs at the Golden Arrow Studio at the Baxter Theatre until 9 February 2013 before touring Perth, New York, Amsterdam, Dublin and London, thanks to the World Fringe Alliance.