Alistair McDowell’s Pomona, is a Dystopian play set in modern day, urban Manchester and, as a play it is extremely dark however features very comedic moments within. Theatre Paradok’s production (directed by Tom Whiston) takes place in the Summerhall Demonstration Room this week, the old veterinary school being the perfect location for such a chilling play.
The basis of the play is that Ollie (performed by Lauren Robinson) comes to Manchester in order to look for her sister who she believes has gone missing and she gets directed to the mysterious island of Pomona, a concrete wasteland in the heart of the city centre. What I found was the main strength in this production was undoubtedly the acting and the choice of casting. I found that all the actors were extremely well suited to their roles and played their parts impeccably well, from Abi Ahmadzadeh’s heartbreaking portrayal of Fay, a sex worker who has ran away from an abusive relationship to the rapport between Moe and Charlie (Liam Bradbury and Tom Hindle), the security guards who man the gate into the island of Pomona. The cast worked as a cohesive unit and suited their characters impeccably.
One slight criticism I would have of the production was that it didn’t make me connect hugely with the characters in the way that I wanted it to, perhaps because this world was so different to the reality that I know. I was unsure if they were approaching the play from a Brechtian point of view as they consistently had the actors at the side of the stage however, if this was the approach that the director wanted I didn’t find that this was hugely effective in the way it was carried out either. I found that neither approach was quite hit on the head in that the play didn’t make me think politically about the issues at heart which I would have wanted from a Brechtian play but it also didn’t make me connect hugely with the characters from an emotional standpoint.
This does not reflect on the actors in any way as I thought the acting was incredible but I think the combination of the original writing and storyline alongside the physical theatre which I personally found distancing made me feel detached from the emotional side of the story. I thought the physical theatre was well done but I didn’t find it necessary in this play and I think the scenes that featured physical theatre could have been done just as well, (if not better as there would have been more clarity within the storyline) without and it may have meant I felt more connected to the characters.
Overall, I really enjoyed the play, giving it 4 stars. It discussed heavy themes and topic material that didn’t make for a light evening out but it was a very well done piece of theatre with incredible acting from all involved. Every actor was wonderful and suited their role perfectly and I would definitely recommend checking it out at Summerhall this week if you get a chance.