You just have to learn on the job: Eloise Snape’s ‘PONY’


6 Jul 2023

Quinn Goodwin, one of our 2023 Workshop Artists, reviews Pony presented by Griffin Theatre Company at the Canberra Theatre Centre.

Eloise Snape’s PONY takes you on Hazel’s journey throughout her tumultuous pregnancy. Faced with the reality that she is approaching middle age Hazel’s anxiety skyrockets, leading her to make a series of fairly questionable choices. One of which is her emotional dependency on Mrs. Twinkle and the Rhyme Time at Glebe library whose continuous appearances become just as grating as Hazel’s lack of self-awareness. That is not to say that PONY is tedious nor that Hazel is an unlikeable protagonist. The opposite in fact. Hazel’s flaws are what make her intensely relatable as she tells the stories of her misfortunes.

Briallen Clarke’s self-deprecating performance immediately draws you in, making you laugh at the story of Nanna at a Hens night, whilst the vulnerability displayed during the demolition of her baby shower brings you to tears. Hazel’s struggle to come to terms with change depicts an anxiety that all can relate to, especially when your identity is not yours to determine. Her relationship with her best friend Liv depicts this conflict starkly as Hazel consistently reflects on her ‘old’ friend who she has lost to motherhood. In general, female relationships are what drive PONY despite it being a one-hander. Clarke’s imitations of each character make it feel as though you are having a conversation with an eccentric partygoer you’ve happened upon rather than a play. Her Nanna Esme provides blunt reality checks when Hazel has become truly delusional and delivers the wisdom of adulthood: you just have to learn on the job.

The set and costumes by Isabel Hudson perfectly encapsulate Hazel’s fear of change. Consisting of walls covered in holographic tiles and a giant pink rocking horse the set is reminiscent of the festival scene circa 2016, providing Clarke with ample space to play. Overlooking the entire play, the rocking horse takes part in many inappropriate shenanigans yet serves as a constant reminder of childhood. The set, paired with a magenta pantsuit, pink bedazzled cowboy boots, and matching hat present an image that challenges Margot Robbie’s Barbie. Just like Barbie, she is trapped inside a box trying to present a perfect feminine facade. These design choices are accompanied by a constant repetition of lyrics from the nursery rhyme ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ which Hazel uses as a coping mechanism in this time of drastic change. Her clinging to this mundane lyric as she loses control of her surroundings and self centres the performance, acting as a constant reminder that this is all an act.

All these elements come together to make you truly believe Eloise Snape’s story. In the digital age where youth is so widely valued (especially in women), this coming-of-middle-age story explores the anxieties of a generation facing challenges unthought of by those that came before. However, the humour of the piece is undeniable. Just as PONY is a story about the growing pains of ageing and the challenge of motherhood, it is also a story about just how versatile Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’ is for the modern woman.

Written by Eloise Snape

Directed by Anthea Williams

Performed by Briallen Clarke

Quinn Goodwin is a Canberra based actor and theatre maker. Originally working with Canberra Youth Theatre in 2019, as a part of the teen ensemble in Possibility she has since been a part of 2022’s How To Vote and the Emerge Company’s 503: Service Unavailable.Throughout the years she has appeared as Meg in Away, Allison in The Breakfast Club and directed her college’s production of Legally Blonde The Musical. Currently studying literature and cultural studies, Quinn is also currently a co-developer of People You May Know, an independent theatre project.