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Pigs and Dogs

  • Theatre, Experimental
  • 3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A short, political play about homophobia in Africa from Caryl Churchill

She may be our greatest living playwright, but it’s probably only fair to expect the mercurial, prolific Caryl Churchill to reinvent theatre, ooh, 75% of the time. 'Pigs and Dogs' is not one of those times, being a short (15mins), fairly straightforward piece written in response to Uganda’s 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act.

In essence it's a 15-minute polemical hypothesis, in which the cast of three perform a series of quotes, beginning with appalling homophobic utterances from a smattering of sitting African heads of state, then moving backwards through historical records to establish that homosexuality has a long history on the continent, and finishing with a section offering the mildly incendiary inference that homophobia was imported to Africa by colonising European powers, and that assertions from the modern leaders that bigotry is ‘African values’ resurfacing in the face of encroaching Western influence is completely off the mark.

There is a risk of Churchill appearing to launch into dewy eyed, even orientalist cliches – it seems some cultures had ritualised homosexuality in a manner similar to the ancient Greeks, but it’s doubtful that Africa as a whole was in fact a gay-friendly paradise until the Europeans messed it up. And it’s hard not to feel a bit icky about any work by a white English writer predicated on generalisations about ‘Africa’. But I don't think that's actually Churchill's point – ‘Pigs and Dogs’ is a dismissal of our dismissal of ‘the other’, a slap down of the dangerous idea that there’s anything out there that’s ‘nothing to do with us’. 

It makes its point effectively if tersely, and without any of the great reinvention of form or language that is Churchill’s usual hallmark. But Dominic Cooke’s minimalist, £5-a-ticket production is a lot more enjoyable than I’ve probably made it sound, with the cast reeling off their quotes with an ironic glint in their eyes that steers the whole thing well clear of agitprop. If you’ve got quarter of an hour and a fiver, you’re unlikely to regret it.

Andrzej Lukowski
Written by
Andrzej Lukowski


£5. Runs 15min
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