Review: Pony Cam’s “A Red Square”

When a company likens their style to South Park merged with Greek tragedy and offer advisories covering every kind of South Park-ian reference point, you know you’re about to see something a bit whacky. Featuring some choice pop culture references, plenty of bloodshed and a touch of anarchy, Pony Cam certainly seem to have hit the nail on the head with their named influences, but nothing quite prepares you for this surreal trip through Microsoft PowerPoint as you’ve never it before.

Essentially, you sign up and receive a link to PowerPoint files. The skill and digital craftsmanship at work comes to light as you click through the frames (at your own speed) to reveal a sprawling narrative of loss and vengeance. The piece combines 2D style animations alongside real-world images and video – in places it’s almost like those flip books – you know, the ones where you have to flip the pages at lightning speed to see a mini narrative of some kind? A cute kiss, or a kid dropping an ice cream and crying? Well imagine that on an epic scale, with audio and film files along the way and you’re almost there. Almost. Because I have a sneaking suspicion that Pony Cam might relish the fact that their work is very tricky to describe neatly.

What about the story, you say? Well, our star is a Red Square. They have been wronged and they are on a mission to find their missing kid at all costs. Using every tool in the PowerPoint kit along with hopping around between and within web windows, we join them on a lively investigative mission. They need answers and they won’t quit until they have them. Granted, it’s more than a little surreal to be investing in the heartbreak and adventure of a red square, but like puppetry and similar theatrical trickery, it’s in the frequent moments of humanisation that the creatives get us. We’re all mugs for mimesis. There, I said it.

To go further would be to give away too much, so I will simply say it’s highly unlikely that you will have experienced a production like this. While it does feel a bit of a faff to click through the entire thing and if I’m totally honest, the ending still hasn’t quite landed for me, one thing is certain: this is an intriguing digital art/ theatre cross-over which may not feel quite like “theatre” to begin with, but it’s got more melodrama up its sleeve (if indeed a red square has sleeves) than an Eastenders lead come Christmas Eve.

Pony Cam are an Australian company with a reputation for ‘defying norms and smashing boundaries”. This piece enjoyed a sold-out season around Australia and you can catch it as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival – tickets are available here.

Image credits: Claire Bird.

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