DIRECTOR: Tara Notcutt

CAST: Rob van Vuuren, James Cairns, Albert Pretorius

VENUE: Baxter Golden Arrow Theatre

UNTIL: February 9

RATING: ****

The Three Little Pigs fairy tale retold like an episode of Law and Order, with no special victims but only criminal intent, makes for engrossing and darkly funny viewing at the Baxter.

The three actors create a multiple-character story that moves at a fast pace and requires an audience that pays attention to metaphor.

That commitment is rewarded with clever satire that irreverently pokes at crime, corruption and law enforcement in South Africa. This isn’t “ha, ha” funny stuff, though, it generates the kind of disbelieving laughter you get when you simply cannot believe what you’re seeing play out in the headlines.

The actors are on stage as the audience enters the intimate theatre, with Rob van Vuuren shell-shocked on a chair next to a table and the other two pacing on either side of a fence, in exceedingly menacing fashion.

What follows is an intense verbal cat-and-mouse game, but though Sparkle the stripper kitty cat (Van Vuuren getting the most sniggers of the night with his minx of a cat) actually puts in an appearance, there are no mice here, just lots of menace and mayhem.

James Cairns’s chicken with a black Joburger’s accent and Albert Pretorius’s goat with a brogue interrogate the last standing little pig (Van Vuuren) about his police brothers’ demise.

Turns out they were actually good little piggies and were killed for doing the right thing and now the chicken lawyer and his goat partner are trying to get a conviction of some kind. The two pigs have been savaged in a brutal manner, which may point the way to a certain big bad wolf.

The story has many convoluted twists and turns, but you can keep up because the characters have names from fairy tales of yore, but their actions have been lifted straight out of today’s newspaper headlines: corrupt cops, death squads and Eastern European “businessmen”.

Someone with a less-than-firm grip on the politics of crime in this country will still get the gist of what is going on, since every great interrogation room scene from the films has been mined for inspiration to move along the story, which uses the shell of the three little pigs’ story to comment on the abuse of power.

Like any good crime drama, the action doesn’t stay centred on just the one room or group of characters and the actors try on several skins, switching from one character to the next in a split second, with Cairns’s Dobermann making quite a startling impression and the hyena trio being much more menacing than Ed from The Lion King.

There are sight gags and double entendres aplenty, but for all that, this is a tight psychological thriller that draws a parallel between ancient stories and the stories we see playing out in our headlines.

There is actually no cynicism here, it is all way too close to the truth, even if the names have been changed to protect the not so innocent.