Language can be both the blessing and the blight of the Irish theater, and in the case of “Disco Pigs,” it falls somewhere in between. Written in an invented patois that suggests high-adrenaline baby talk filtered through Ireland’s thick Cork accent, Enda Walsh’s play marks an impressive linguistic feat that nonetheless reaps diminishing returns.
Whereas the novel speech in a play like “The Skriker” induces a real rush, the grunts of “Disco Pigs” wear out their not always intelligible welcome: For a 70-minute piece, it’s a fairly long sit. The play was a hit at the recent Edinburgh Festival, and one can see why, since it possesses the virtues on which that festival thrives: youth, energy and speed. But seen in London amid a season that has hosted a virtual flood of Irish drama, the play looks like a belated addition to the New Brutalism in vogue at the moment.
Runt (Eileen Walsh) and Pig (Cillian Murphy) — teenagers both — lead abusive, anti-social lives, yearning for sex and chips and booze (notalways in that order) and ready to fly into a tantrum (and worse) when plans go awry. The two define one another’s existence and speak of themselves as a Celtic Bonnie and Clyde, weaned on “Baywatch” and “Never Can Say Goodbye” and yearning for the true release that their dreary circumstances won’t allow.
On a set by Aedin Cosgrove that suggests a low-rent arena of sorts (two red metal chairs are the only props), gawky Runt plays realist to the feisty, mercurial Pig.
Director Pat Kiernan rightly treats the piece as an in-your-face mood swing shifting between ferocity and elegy, and he exhibits a real find in Eileen Walsh’s (no relation to the playwright) awkward, cropped-haired Runt. As the most pugnacious of soulmates, Murphy has the less engaging role, though it’s a tribute to both actors that their body language tells its own compelling story long after the author’s own talking-in-tongues has begun to pall.