Theatre review: The Pit Ponies’ Penultimate Life Drawing Class

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: “It’s a bit like a pit in here, isn’t it?” a woman says of the dark, damp little space we’re led into.

Paradise in the Vault (Venue 33)

***

Peering from within a face covered in coal, is a figure. He might look like a miner, but he tells us he is Equus Ferus: wild horse – or, in this instance, a beast from the depths of the earth.

Through a piece of raw and intriguing narrative poetry, Rupert Smith captures abrasive, visceral snapshots of a once tough and uncompromising world that now lies still and fossilised.

Inspired by the real-life pit ponies, which only surfaced once a year, it has a masculine tone and a meandering pace that adds to the feeling of being lost down a mine. The language of art, with its ‘vanishing points’, becomes a metaphor for capturing the past: the mechanical, clockwork machinery now gone and the horses – or perhaps their ghosts – still trapped where it once churned.

A clearer and more focussed story would give the piece more shape, but as a dark play, late at night, it’s a fittingly atmospheric 45 minutes of idiosyncratic intrigue, with Robert Brice on didgeridoo adding to its otherworldly quality.

Until 12 August. Today 10:30pm.