An experiment in other selves: Rig Pig Fantasia, a 12thnight Fringe review

Michael Anderson and Dave Horak in Rig Pig Fantasia, Wishbone Theatre. Photo by Laura O’Connor.

By Liz Nicholls,

Rig Pig Fantasia (Stage 1, Westbury Theatre)

An eerie boreal forest of tall swaying translucent trees hangs from the sky. Sometimes they’re skeletal, backlit by an ominous red glow. Sometimes they seem to glow from within, lit by dreams and memory.

That’s where Chris Bullough’s new Rig Pig Fantasia happens, in its evocative, meandering, theme-and-variations way. And the design (Michael Peng with lighting by Anita Diaz) gets to the heart of it.

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It’s not called a “fantasia” for nothing. Rig Pig Fantasia isn’t a play built on a satisfying, recognizable infrastucture — two guys operating heavy oil machinery together, bonding, and learning a lesson, for example, or a man reinventing himself. It’s unhinged from those moorings, having a wander. Go with it. 

There are non-linear dance sequences next to visceral bar brawls, real-guy banter over T-Ho coffee next to memories, real-life morning-after romance scenes juxtaposed to scenes that a born-again artist is fashioning, and casting, from the raw materials of his life. 

All the characters have more than one self. Aaron (Dave Horak) and Brett (Michael Anderson) are the oil co-workers, a heavy machinery duo who party together on the weekends and have views on doughnuts. There’s an affectionate comic vaudeville between them as Brett remembers the world of his unfulfilled boyhood self, who loved to dance; Aaron flinches. And the friction escalates when Brett “meets someone.” She’s an artist (Laura Raboud) who inspires Brett to revisit his true self and has, it transpires, a surprising double-life too. The assumption that art and the natural world are born allies seems built in and, in truth, not questioned. 

The actors in Bullough’s Wishbone Theatre production are first-rate, all three. The chemistry, verbal and physical, is so believable in their scenes together that when the “plot” kicks in, I couldn’t entirely wrap my mind around its revelations.   

Anyhow, Rig Pig Fantasia has an experimental feel about it. It has a wide theatrical embrace — a mixture of real characters in dramatic encounters with their other possibilities (alter-egos, memories, alternative choices). There’s a kind of flickering incoherence about it (enhanced by the lighting). And, although it unspools itself a bit too far at the moment, maybe that jostling of position is the point.    

These days you can start a instant argument by saying the name “Fort McMurray” out loud: environment versus industry, saving the planet versus saving the economy. But the bedrock of the piece is that everyone actually does know at heart that fossil fuel consumption causes climate change, and the planet’s biological sustainability clock is ticking.

Even Aaron, the rig pig who argues fiercely for jobs and against tree-huggers and modern dance, knows it, it turns out. It’s what you do with that knowledge that counts. Witness this show. 

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