JOYCE MCMILLAN on THIS LITTLE PIGGY at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 7.11.12
4 stars ****
PLAYS about play-acting can be self-absorbed, tedious, annoying; but not in the case of Jamie Laing’s brilliantly energetic first play for the lunchtime Play, Pie and Pint series. For in This Little Piggy, the person acting a part is not some fretful thespian or routine con-man, but one of those policemen assigned to infiltrate protest movements, and – it is widely alleged – to incite them to greater violence, in the hope of discrediting and marginalising them.
So it is that Laing’s anti-hero, Paul McCabe, becomes Paul Drummond, self-employed Edinburgh van man and green activist, following his protestor friends Bezzie and Lizzie from demo to demo, across the political landscape of the last half-decade. What’s sad and disturbing about the show is that it already seems to be chronicling a moment in time that has passed; whatever is happening in the global protest movement now, the big student demonstrations and occupations of 18 months ago are no longer with us.
What’s undeniable, though – in Tom Birch’s high-energy, inventive production – is that Paul’s journey into the world of political activism makes great, multi-layered theatre, as the three apparent comrades make their way through the highly theatrical and often tragi-comic world of public meetings obsessed with procedure, Saturday stall-holding (with megaphone) at the corner of Princes Street, and major direct attention at Drax power station and Millbank Tower.
In the end, Steven Duffy’s Paul emerges as a nicer guy than some real-life undercover officers; disgusted by the one-sided efforts of his police boss, a brilliantly thuggish Stewart Porter, to discredit legitimate protest, he finally leaves the police for good. In the meantime, though, his story has given us a fine, funny, and timely piece of political theatre; not only about the act of protest, but about the hostile and reactionary world of perpetual surveillance in which campaigners for real social change now have to operate.