Introduce us to YOU. What’s your creative background? What brought you to playwriting?
Hello! My name is Eloise Snape. I am 38 and the loves of my life are my husband Sam, my daughter Winnie, my cat Terrence and my Mum and Dad. I enjoy shitty reality TV and have a strange obsession with aeroplanes. Once of my favourite pastimes is looking at my Flight Radar app and checking where planes are in the sky. Weirdly, my creative background actually started at writing even though I’m only kind of starting out now. I studied a Bachelor of Media in Writing at Macquarie University about 150 years ago and actually spent a chunk of my degree writing in London/travelling around Europe not turning up to class. At uni I found a group of drama society misfits who became my mates for life. One being Stephen Multari, who I went on to start my indie theatre company, MopHead, with. Once I realised I wasn’t really turning up to my classes because I was spending all my time making plays with the weirdos, I then decided to audition for drama schools (after a couple of years working a proper job) and at 25 I made the decision to stop full time work and study acting full time at Actors Centre Australia. There I met amazing people, and made more mates for life and worked with incredible teachers and directors. Since graduating in 2011, I have been lucky enough to work as an actor for the last 10 years and have spent the majority of that time making independent theatre with Stephen and MopHead. It was working on various plays as an actor and producer, like ‘4000 Miles’ and ‘The Humans’, that I was lucky enough to be directed by Anthony Skuse and Anthea Williams who have become mentors for me and also happen to both be incredible dramaturgs. I always knew I wanted to come back to writing, but I felt I never had anything to write about. Until 2020, when the world went manic and I fell pregnant.
What is your play about?
Pregnant fantasist, Hazel, is at Covid-style Rhyme Time: no singing, just speaking the lyrics of nursery rhymes. ‘Incy Wincy Spider’ is now quite profound, ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ has dark shades of nihilism, and ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ is a full-blown existential crisis. But at least they’re distracting her from the tidal wave of change that is about to crash over her life…
‘Pony’ is a bitingly honest and hilarious coming of (middle) age story, performed by one actor, which explores bodies and sex, the wild ways we avoid talking honestly about pre and post-natal mental health and how we navigate being on the precipice of motherhood when our brain is still on a dance floor grinding to the beats of Ginuwine’s classic anthem.
Why do you want to tell this story on a stage today?
I was not the earth mother I believed I would be. In a desperate attempt to cling on to my pre-baby self, I tried to prove I could do it all and present to the world as being completely together. When my daughter was 2 weeks old I was back at work (a small job but still a job), trying not to cry down the microphone from sheer exhaustion. I was quickly diagnosed with post-natal anxiety, which I was lucky to get on top of immediately thanks to the amazing support network around me, and while I knew a huge part of me was changing and learning in ways I never imagined, I also felt like I lost a part of myself. I was often overcome, physically, by huge waves of nostalgia. I came to realise, that even though the world around me was going through a once in 100 year crisis, and the industry I work in and love was suffering terribly (and still is), that the changes that pregnancy and motherhood had brought to my mind, body and sense of self still felt overwhelmingly more suffocating. Why couldn’t I be honest about this? Why did I need to hide what was really going on? It really felt like a life or death moment – I was stuck in that post-natal hormonal fear. I think there is a lot we still don’t understand about women’s bodies and health.
Then I started to write. Almost as a way to distract myself from it. And still pretend I was ‘together’. A multi-tasking-super-human Mumma. I started to write a character, Hazel, who was doing exactly that – distracting herself from her pre-natal anxiety in the most ridiculous of ways.
Women in their late 30s, like Hazel, grew up under John Howard’s baby bonus, told not to leave it too late to have children, but knowing statistically careers stagnate when women become mothers. Also, many of us enjoy our childless lives. We are expected to have it all. A brilliant career, travel, fun and children. Society doesn’t actually support this though, and women bear the brunt of the gap between expectation and reality.
I am so excited to share a comedy at a time when we need a bit of joy. I hope ‘Pony’ will encourage audiences to laugh at some of our deepest fears and human experiences and give everyone a sense of hope. Hazel goes from hopeless to hopeful. In the same way that the questioning of my identity and fear of change brought up overwhelming feelings of nostalgia, I know this play will invoke similar feelings in an audience. I think the last couple of years have pushed us to really question who we are in this world and in relation to our families, particularly with the closing and opening of borders around the country. More than ever while many of us have been isolated, our relationships to the people closest to us are especially precious and ‘Pony’ questions the importance of such connections and what happens when these are lost. Now is an incredibly important time for storytelling to be used as a tool to bring people together, to look at how we are a product of the generations before us, to acknowledge the importance of connection as we’ve lost so much of it, and to question our ability to be empathetic. I hope ‘Pony’ will connect with everyone in their own unique way.
What was the process like writing this play?
My amazing friend and a fellow creative, Frieda Lee, came to me when I was about 35 weeks pregnant and said, ‘when are you going to write your one woman show?’ ‘Never’ was my response as I gestured to my enlarged uterus. 2 weeks later Winnie was born and I’m going to be honest – the first year of writing and developing ‘Pony’ is a blur to me.
I brought my word spew to a few early developments with Anthea Wiliams, Adrienne Patterson and Frieda, and thanks to their genius I went off felt with clarity around the story I wanted to write, and how to structure it. But I was in wild state of sleep deprivation and confusion with a newborn. And in this madness I just wrote and wrote. And the madness infiltrated the story, in a positive way. The play started to shift as I became sure about what I wanted to say. I then brought drafts to Anthea over Zoom, during 2021 and we’d continue to develop and I’d keep writing madly. It was deeply satisfying, but super challenging fighting with fatigue and brain fog.
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