Annette Walker (Aeriella), Caroline Parker MBE (The Missus), Edmund the Learned Pig (himself, assisted by Anthony Cairns)
Imagine an animal free menagerie; a memory man who forgets things and a vertigo suffering aerialist and you have Barry Bonaparte's travelling circus. Its posters proclaim ‘Daredevil…’ ‘Marvellous…’ ‘Exotic …’ and ‘Before Your Very Eyes…’ but no drum thumping and razzamatazz will bring in the crowds to see these hungry and desperate troupers. Then who comes along to change their lives but a talking pig called Edmund.
The redoubtable cast is gloriously costumed sporting the world - weary shabby glamour of true travelling players of the last but one century, each a walking faded sideshow. The period is evoked further with an easel at side of the stage holding scene captions and of course the presence of a bearded lady (Sally Clay) who plays the original music throughout and Edmund is a loveable piggy puppet whose voice and movements come from Anthony Cairns, a co –creator of the musical Shockheaded Peter.
The presenting companies bring a signed satire on being other and learning to be comfortable in your own skin (in this case a pigskin) done with some Brechtian style and an Orwellian twist. Edmund’s cruel and haughty rejection of his porcine mother when he has made his way in the human world, where his siblings have ended up as sausages or being served up with a bit of crackling, recalls a poignant scene from the 1959 film Imitation of Life.
This interactive deaf friendly musical with a disabled cast features a fine display of table top tap dancing, a finale of a lovely aerial silks display and music and songs composed by Martyn Jacques of the wickedly talented Tiger Lillies. Maybe it’s the knowledge of his presence within the simplistic children’s morality tale about being different and brave enough to step out of your comfort zone, but it feels like an adult show waiting to burst out of its 19th century corset with the likes of what could be a Molly House scene of a pig giving birth to a litter like a string of sausages.
Commissioned as part of the Unlimited Festival that celebrates the work of disabled artists from across the UK, Edmund the Learned Pig comes with impressive credentials but fails to be a real high striker despite hero Edmund finding wings.
24–30 August 2015, 11.20am “Suitable for vegetarians, carnivores, the deaf and ages 8+”