[2013013] Ponydance

[2013013] Ponydance [FringeTIX]

Ponydance @ The Garden of Unearthly Delights – Romantiek

4:00pm, Sat 16 Feb 2013

It has, apparently, only gotten hotter as the day has gone on; the Garden is deserted, with the few punters that have ventured into the heat avoiding the wide open spaces in favour of huddling under trees and umbrellas. But when the door call for Ponydance goes out, a surprising number of people – including a fair number of families, leading to a quarter of the audience being children – manage to fill the Romantiek to maybe two-thirds capacity.

Deidre comes out to introduce Ponydance’s new show, Anybody Waitin’?, and instantly there’s an issue – her wireless microphone isn’t working, leading to her straining her voice attempting to get the people down the back to hear. But she describes how the (joyously buxom) Paula is on the hunt for a man and, utilising their two male friends (Bryan? Duane? Lorcan? It’s bloody difficult to track down the names of the Ponydancers), they do their damnedest to hook her up. Of course, there’s manufactured angst between members of the troupe, the boys are painted in a vivid shade of gay (leading to the performance’s highlight, a Total Eclipse of the Heart denouement), and plenty of Adidas tracksuitery – which, it must be said, is a brilliant bit of costuming, with the three white stripes flashing with their dance moves.

An impromptu change-room pops up onstage, providing a few laughs; more come when two male audience members are dragged in there with the other boys and they all reappear wearing gaudy lion(?) leotards. But the moments of audience interaction most definitely feel like padding – it’s almost like the show was being padded with embryonic material out to fill an entire hour block.

And whilst Anybody Waitin’? features some of the exuberant dance that I experienced in last year’s Ponydance show (with Deidre in particular standing out), there’s a couple of major problems with this production. The first is lack of coherence in this year’s act: it most certainly feels like a collection of (admittedly fun) dance routines interspersed with limp narrative links, and the writing is… well, pretty bloody average. After the gorgeous unified storytelling and movement last year, expectations were high in that regard – and they were simply not met.

The other problem is far less solvable – the Romantiek is an absolutely shithouse venue for a performance such as this. With the performance taking place on the flat, with the audience radiating around the performers, there’s almost no opportunity for those more than two rows back to see any of the performer’s lower bodies… and, given the nature of the dance, that’s a fair chunk of the reason you’re there. I was lucky in my second-row seat – I had no-one sitting directly in front of me – but I’ve heard tales of others who weren’t so lucky, and were unable to see pretty much any of the action.

Add onto that the mike issues on the day, and the reliance on the audience for shock-laughs, and I left this performance pretty disappointing. Sure, the way the Ponies unexpectedly explode into a synchronised flurry of limbs from a tussle is a grin-worthy delight, but unfortunately there’s not enough of that action occurring… and the bits in-between are too clunky to support an hour-long show.

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