The Little Pony is part of the New Spanish Playwriting season currently taking place at Cervantes Theatre in Southwark.
Originally penned by Paco Bezerra, award-winning Spanish playwright, the play has been translated into English by Marion Peter Holt and Directed by Paula Paz and is currently running until the 30th June 2018.
The piece is based on the events of 2014 in North Carolina when a 9-year old boy was severely bullied by his classmates because he carried a ‘My Little Pony’ backpack. The school decided to handle this bullying by excluding the boy unless he left said backpack at home! This made global news, in fact you may recall the aftermath where men of all ages posted pictures of themselves on social media with their kids’ lunchboxes in solidarity with this boy.
Outrageous you may cry! This 90 minute 2-hander addresses the relationship breakdown between the parents of Timmy, a 10-year-old boy who loves his bright pink backpack and because of this he is brutally bullied, both physically and verbally by 253 children at his school. The school’s answer is to ban the backpack or exclude the pupil!
For me, one of the signs of a great play is that you want to talk about the piece after you have seen it – and this is very true for The Little Pony. My +1 and I talked about the piece on our journey home, I called my mum when I got back and told her about it, and again, I talked about the piece with my flatmate this morning. For this reason alone, I would highly recommend the piece, an important theatre production that sparks debate and must be talked about in the open.
To set the scene, when you arrive in the auditorium, the two performers, Paul Albertson and Rachel Sanders are already situated in the performance space. The set up is a thrust-stage which is supported by a bright pink net curtain which resembles a 4 poster-bed and a proscenium arch. The furniture on the set is also pink. Irene (Rachel Sanders) is sat on a chair reading a book titled “When You Believe Magic Exists” and Dad (Paul Alberton) is lounging on the floor. There is a picture (static video screen) of Timmy hanging on their wall; an omnipresent reminder of Timmy’s innocence.
Immediately the audience warms to this loving couple, their banter, their love for each other. As the piece progresses their relationship breaks down as each parent does what they believe is right to protect their child.
Here comes the major theme of the piece, bearing in mind that Timmy is only 10 years young, do you teach him to hide his ‘difference’ and blend in or do you celebrate his uniqueness and ask the school to educate/reprimand the other pupils. Where is the blame? How do you protect innocence?
As the piece progresses the relationship of our two protagonists breaks down in front of us. Sanders and Albertson skilfully articulate their character’s thoughts and feelings, their frustrations and fears, their pain. Their onstage chemistry never fails them, they bring this horrifying situation to life but with gritty realism that is powerful to watch.
Whilst we witness the breakdown of the family on the stage, the image of Timmy is digitally altered in front of our eyes, almost like a reversal of Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, the more fractured the relationship between the parents, the more altered Timmy’s appearance becomes. This is a very powerful tool that enhances the tension of the piece.
In my conclusion, the piece is dark but with a glimpse of light at the end, the performances are strong and the script powerful. It would be great to see the piece in its original language because I’d imagine the rhythm of the speeches and imagery behind them is more powerful.
Review by Faye Stockley
Timmy is being bullied at school because of his favourite backpack, a bright pink backpack full of little ponies from his favourite TV series. Daniel and Irene try to confront the brutal school bullying that Timmy is subjected to. A school that protects its bullies and a couple that tries to do the best for their child will witness how Timmy escapes to an imaginary universe to protect himself from the insufferable reality.
Directed by Paula Paz, Associate Director of the Cervantes Theatre, and starring Rachel Sanders and Paul Albertson.
The Little Pony
by Paco Bezerra
12 June – 30 June 2018 I 7.30pm