POMONA To 21 November.


by Alistair McDowall.

Royal Exchange Theatre St Ann’s Square M2 7D To 21 November 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 15 Nov 2.30pm.
Audio-described 21 Nov 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 20 Nov.
Captioned 19 Nov 7.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 12 Nov 730pm.
Runs 1hr 45min No interval.

TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 5 November.

Hell on earth in vibrant drama.
This is a play, in a sense, come home, following its emergence in Cardiff and professional premiere in Richmond, with the same production team and almost the same cast as here. For Pomona is a bare island peeking out of the waterways around Manchester and Salford (Trafford too). Half-hidden from the casual eye, it has wildlife, an industrial past (as dockland) and a bona fide owner.

On to this playwright Alistair McDowall has projected fragmentary memories, using its current isolation to create a modern nightmare, and a place for the mainly young people who don’t fit in society. There’s abuse, there’s anger, there’s refuge from daylight and society. And if in this Royal Exchange revival the shallow sink covering the stage hasn’t the grave-like sense of the Orange Tree’s dug-out pit, it remains a place where life and hope might drain away.

Quite unlike the goddess of fruit-trees for whom the place was named when it was a pleasure-ground amid a smoky industrial city. More like the contaminated site industry left it. And now, for McDowell an anonymous area within, yet apart from, the world around. At one with the Manchester Ring Road Zeppo rides at night, creating an impression at the start by the thunderous tale he tells, till it’s identified as an adventure film plot. Or the H P Lovecraft-derived mask, like the face of a horror-god infested with worm-like strands.

From Zeppo’s frenetic opening, undercut by recognition of the film he’s describing, action proceeds hectically, each step taking characters closer to the sink of existence that drains away lost souls. Zeppo’s opening confidence isn’t repeated in the atmosphere of violence the frenetic movement and urgent language creates.

At just one point there’s a let-up in the urgent searching and surging energy, as two characters sit quietly talking to each other across the stage. It only underlies the sense of souls lost in the urban jungle.

But Pomona doesn’t replay the clichés; it creates its own nightmarish reality. How much lies beneath the surface ingenuity might come to be questioned. But, superbly played here, that ingenuity alone makes it worth the, admittedly bumpy, ride.

Ollie: Nadia Clifford.
Fay: Rebecca Humphries.
Keaton: Sarah Middleton.
Zeppo: Guy Rhys.
Moe: Sean Rigby.
Gale: Rochenda Sandall.
Charlie: Sam Swann.

Director: Ned Bennett.
Designer: Georgia Lowe.
Lighting: Elliot Griggs.
Sound/Composer: Giles Thomas.
Movement: Polly Bennett.
Fight director: Pamela Donald.

2015-11-12 10:59:57

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