Review: Pony (Griffin Theatre Company)

Venue: SBW Stables Theatre (Darlinghurst NSW), May 12 – Jun 17, 2023
Writer: Eloise Snape
Director: Anthea Williams
Cast: Briallen Clarke
Images by Brett Boardman

Theatre review

Hazel is not dealing with her pregnancy very well at all. In Eloise Snape’s Pony, a young woman’s immense anxiety manifests as a lot of neurotic humour, in a play that explores the nature of human transformations, and the psychological dread involved, when a person stands at the precipice of unimaginable change. The play is intricately structured, in a non-linear fashion, that elicits substantial intrigue and fascination. Snape’s observations are precise, expressed with an enjoyable idiosyncrasy, even if the central subject of child-bearing never really succeeds at becoming engaging.

Direction by Anthea Williams is full of dynamism, in a staging that turns a one-person show into something surprisingly varied and unpredictable. The irresistible glitz of Isabel Hudson’s set and costume designs imbue an effervescence that keeps the mood uplifted, and our sentiments generous. Verity Hampson’s lights are commensurately joyful, offering many calibrations that help punctuate action and emotion. Similarly, Me-Lee Hay’s sound and music are utilised powerfully to add texture to the piece, so that our attention can remain on the performer, yet be made to travel through a rich assortment of mental states, over the 100-minute duration.

Performer Briallen Clarke is flawless in the production, whether as the painfully vulnerable protagonist Hazel, or when playing the multiple ancillary characters of Pony, all replete with individual colour and peculiarity. Clarke’s work is wonderfully rich, and her ability to endear her audience to the difficult story, is quite a marvel to witness.

Our bodies often go against our will. Being human requires a constant navigation of corporeality, one that seems intent on reminding us our fallibility. In Pony we see ourselves submit to the carnal, recognising that we are at ease when feeding our bodies that which is pleasurable, but when it works against us, is when we experience some of the hardest times. A certain submission has to be deployed, when we concede that in one entity, rarely can two separate desires co-exist; only one will prevail, and the flesh always has the final say.