The Pitchfork Disney

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The Pitchfork Disney is the first stage play by Philip Ridley. It premiered at the Bush Theatre in London, England in 1991 and was performed by the Bluelight Theater Company in its New York premiere in 1999. It was a controversial hit and is now generally regarded as the play that kick-started a whole new confrontational ("In-Yer-Face") movement in British theatre in the 1990s.[1]

Plot and characters[edit]

The play opens with the characters of Presley and Haley, two adults living alone in the East End of London. They lead a childish fantasy existence, living mainly off chocolate. Their parents have long since disappeared, although their exact fate is not described.

They tell stories and discuss their dreams and fears. Agitated, Haley sucks on a drugged dummy and goes to sleep.

From their window, they see two men, one of whom is apparently sick. Despite their fear of outsiders, Presley brings the sick man in, who promptly vomits on the floor. The man introduces himself as Cosmo Disney, and explains that he and his partner are showmen. His sickness is caused by the fact that his particular talent consists of eating cockroaches. Cosmo emotionally manipulates Presley, who is obviously attracted to him. Presley tells Cosmo about a recurring dream he has, involving a serial killer named 'The Pitchfork Disney'.

Almost immediately after Presley finishes his story, Cosmo's partner arrives. He is a huge, masked and apparently mute figure named Pitchfork Cavalier, and his act is simply taking his mask off to reveal his hideously deformed face. He sings a wordless song, dances with the unconscious Haley and eats some chocolate. Cosmo convinces Presley to accompany Pitchfork to the shops, promising friendship. As soon as they are out, Cosmo performs a bizarre sexual assault on Haley. Presley unexpectedly returns and realises Cosmo's true motives, and breaks his finger. Cosmo flees. Pitchfork briefly returns, terrifies Presley and then leaves. Haley awakes, and the two express their fear.

Themes and structure[edit]

The play is a dreamlike piece with surreal undertones. It primarily deals with fear, particularly childhood fears. Dreams and stories are also explored, and indeed, the entire play can be interpreted as a dream in itself.

Much of the play consists of long and highly descriptive monologues by characters, particularly Presley.


  1. ^ Gardner, Lyn (3 February 2012). "The Pitchfork Disney – review". The Guardian (London).