Written and performed by Gary Kitching and Steve Byron, Bacon Knees and Sausage Fingers is a bleak and often uncomfortable comic drama about the cruel and uncaring way in which society treats those who are born a bit different.
The play centres on two such men who meet by chance on Newcastle’s High Level Bridge. One of them has bacon attached to his knees (Kitching) and the other has a suitcase and a dog on a piece of string (Byron). The pair enter into a stilted conversation about their respective accoutrements, which is replayed ad nauseam. However, for the most part, they talk directly to the audience, relaying the stories their ill-fated lives. Like true outcasts, their real names are never revealed; they are known only by the mocking monikers of Bacon Knees and Sausage Fingers.
Both of their narratives start off in a relatively light-hearted fashion but the mood darkens as details of violence, abuse and neglect emerge. Byron’s Sausage Fingers throbs with barely contained rage as he recounts episodes from his tormented life, while Kitching’s childlike Bacon Knees suppresses his trauma by cocooning himself in a fantasy world.
Ali Pritchard’s sparsely staged production does a skilful job of keeping the audience off balance with abrupt changes in tone. The audience is invited to laugh at comic misfortune one minute, and then made choke on that laughter the next.
While this is potent stuff, it’s not without its flaws. The repetition of dialogue becomes grating, the narrative occasionally sags, and the photographic imagery illustrating the monologues is too literal to add any extra depth. But these do little to detract from the play’s raw dramatic power.