Snout, A Play about Pigs & Feminism

thumbnail_img_8713This is a tricky one. The write up says that this is a play which examines ethical farm practices and may put you off your pie.  This is not quite what we get. It is not ‘Fun’ but it is ‘Food, Drink and Drama’. Or did I miss something?

I take three friends with me –we are all women, all farmers and two of us keep pigs. We discuss the play we have seen and the pie we have eaten a lot. In fact, we talk about it over chips later on Penarth Pier and again in the week. It has made us think. But perhaps not in the way Jones would like us to.

It is a play about 3 little pigs, 3 women acting as pigs and as women. They are in a trailer heading for the slaughter house. Their actions and conversations are an odd mixture of supposed pig talk and young women chatter. They grunt occasionally. One is a cross carrying faithful type who misses her sister, one is a punky type who misses her lover and the other is a party going good time girl. A bit stereotypical. They work out that they are not going to a show but to the abattoir and so forth.

Now here’s a problem. Facts. Anyone who knows anything about pigs, knows that they don’t carry hairbrushes or wear crosses. They also don’t get electric shocks for bad behaviour when they squeal in a trailer. They might wander into a shed to watch a farmer, er, enjoy himself but we are pretty sure that we don’t know anyone who finds pigs that attractive.

When they talk about life, death and the lack of control over their lives, something resonates with me. Do they contemplate the meaning of life? Do we, as owners, play God?

Pigs are fun to be around precisely because they are calculating, funny and usually, miles ahead of their keepers. But we keep them also because they can be eaten. The speech at the end, before they trot out to their doom, is tediously predictable and aimed at converting the audience to vegetarianism, I think. My colleagues are not impressed and feel that this last scene spoils an otherwise interesting and thought-provoking play.

Then we have the after-show discussion. Lots of people have stayed behind for this and we are keen to debate the ideas raised in the performance.

But there is a surprise. Jones take an unexpected stance. She tells us about tattooed pigs and cruelty. She then explains that the play is actually about feminism; she uses the pigs to slaughter as metaphor for seeing women as meat, as bodies to be cut up into pieces, as porn, as without control. Oh. I see now. This makes sense of scenes previously lost to me.

We discuss life and end of life, self-determinism, women’s rights, farming practices and eating meat. The audience is enthusiastic and picks up a particular thread with zeal: why have a play about killing animals and then give us a meat pie? Where does that meat come from, asks another. But it’s about women, not pigs, really.

We get it.

It makes even more sense when Jones explains to me that she had taken a 1hr40min play and made it into a 40min production. Sometimes, we need to rewrite not just slash and edit or we lose the meaning of a piece.  The playwright cannot attend every production to explain. The metaphor is clever, her idea is sound and with tweaking, would make an outstanding work.

I looked up the use of tattooed pigs for handbags – can’t be true, we said, but it was: art as an excuse for profit. Deeply shocking. I can see where she is coming from and Jones definitely is on to something here.

 

Enjoyed:          10th November, 2016 at The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

Playwright:      Kelly Jones

Director:          Kenny Miller

Actors:             Coco Clare Cage

Lacey Michele Gallagher

Viv Sally Reid

http://www.shermantheatre.co.uk/performance/theatre/a-play-a-pie-and-a-pint-november-16/

 

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Country Smallholding Magazine

cs-nov-2016

It is thanks to #twitter that I have made some excellent connections and friends.

Affording endless entertainment, company & information, I have also been invited to tweet for @smallholdersUK & @smallholdersIRL this year.

Not only a baptism of twittering fire but a welcome to the world of publishing (in a very minor capacity). Country Smalholding Magazine was kind enough to print something about me & my menagerie earlier this year and this month, am included in a feature on establishing a smallholding.

Sharing what we do and how we do it, in all professions, is hugely important & for many reasons. Personally, I want other people to learn from my mistakes & from the things I think I may have got right for once! Why endlessly reinvent the wheel? I want to learn from everyone else, too.

I also, like many like me, want to share my bonkers journey in this complex world of farm-to-plate & to show that ethical farming practices can be sustainable & enjoyable; & that high welfare stock produces high quality, healthier food.

Come & meet me & the #swanbridgesafari on Sunday mornings, 11 0’clock at the field gate (but only when it’s dry). DM @HelenJoy20 or PM Swanbridge Porkers or Swanbridge Flockers on Facebook for details.

 

Abergavenny Food Festival

SATURDAY MORNING, mid September, and Jane and I are in full waterproofs, headtorches and wellies laying face down in the garden in the pitch black being towed by a pig. And so it continued… It wasn’t the start we’d anticipated.

Half an hour later and two Berkshire weaners are settled in the trailer and we head off to Abergavenny. We arrive in glorious sunshine and are directed into the farm event where the pigs have a nice big pen, fresh straw and water and are looking bright and well. We, however, look like nothing on earth – Wurzul Gummidge & Stig of the Dump combined. A quick scrub in the Wetherspoons loos & a bit of lipstick and we are ready for the show. This is the first Farm Event Abergavenny has hosted and I was enormously proud to be their first guest speaker.

The tent was fun – seating arrangements were bales of straw, as was the sofa on the stage! There was the most interesting series of presenters and a good debate about farm to plate at the end. Jane sat at the back of the arena, knitting; and like all good audience members, she asked everyone questions and helped prompt conversation.

It was also an exciting opportunity to meet not only other food producers and retailers but to meet friends made on social media for real. Twitter Pigpal Martha, organiser and presenter, bounced over to greet us; as did others keen to say hello and see the pigs.

The whole event was welcoming in fact and it was a privilege, as always, to chat to the public about our farming practices and answer any questions as best we could.

Huge thanks to Jane Bissett of The Kennixton Flock for riding shotgun; to Martha Roberts and the team for making us so welcome; and to Abergavenny Food Festival for having us.

Watch the Seasons Turn

The Secret Acre

deerAnd another year goes by. So last month I put up two curtain poles and a washing line at The Secret Acre. Because October marked our first year anniversary of moving in. And rather embarrassingly these were the last of the ‘quick’ jobs still undone from that very first month!

But missing curtain poles aside, October was a chance for us to reflect on the good and bad points of our first year. Fortunately, perhaps, our positives and negatives were remarkably similar.

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Generosity / Recycling

An exceptional Autumn for the pigs here at Swanbridge.

Just citing today as an example: thanks to @tomosalilford they all had brewers’ grains for breakfast and then they dashed off into the woods for yet more acorns and the last of the blackberries. A trip to @Hendrewennol and I have another boot full of pumpkins; thanks to @WPenarth another car load of pumpkins and bananas. I arrive home to sacks of apples along the drive thanks to Barbara, a not so near neighbour. Then, Joanna and her family rock up with apple pulp from fruit pressing.

#swanbridgeporkers will be fine tasting pork and sausages thanks to the generosity of others. The ultimate in recycling.