Inspired by recent high-profile bullying cases, The Little Pony revolves around 10 year old Timmy, whose talismanic attachment to a pink backpack sees him tormented by his schoolmates, and dismissed as a problem student by the faculty. Here, the promising concept serves mostly as springboard for a thorough, thoughtful examination of the blurred lines between identity and escapism, between personal choice and the stable but stultifying roles dictated by tradition.
Written by award winning playwright Paco Bezerra and translated by Marion Peter Holt, the text is weighted with an earnestness which often feels clumsily portentous, but occasionally shines with resonant poetry. As Timmy’s parents unpack their own faults and fears, they seem to stumble into velvety metaphors about growing jasmines on rose bushes, about a home transformed into a ‘deaf and empty moon.’
Director Paula Paz plays up the family’s sharply different personalities, having Paul Albertson stalk the space or sprawl across the floor as the boy’s father Daniel. Still something of a child himself, he recites facts about astronauts, flies into mercurial rages, and persistently, maddeningly patronises his wife. Rachel Sanders makes a superb counterpoint, a tightly controlled presence providing a voice of practicality, but viscerally tormented by her inability to understand her troubled son.
Alejandro Andujar’s simple, all-pink set is draped in gauzy curtains and upholstered in rosy velour. A child’s photo hangs overhead, slowly transforming between scenes, the boy’s features erased as he slips further from his parent’s reality and into his own imaginary world.