An exceptional performance of an extraordinary, topical, urban play.
From the moment you enter the semi-dark studio to find an actor with an octopus instead of a face waiting for you in the car, Pomona is a strange experience, full of questions without easy answers. Who controls the city? Is it even possible to be a good person anymore? Where is Pomona, and what is it hiding?
When Ollie’s sister goes missing she meets the mysterious Mr Zeppo, on a ring road late at night. He tells her of the mysterious Pomona, a square of disused concrete with a gate at either end, a place where people are said to “disappear”. But once she’s opened the hypothetical box there’s no going back – fantasy and reality start to collide and hers is not the only life at stake when chaos surfaces and the true human cost revealed.
fantasy and reality start to collide…
Like the ring road, the plot loops dizzyingly as Ollie’s life becomes entwined with a clutch of disturbed and disturbing characters. It’s disorientating, at times hard to watch but an important, timely piece of contemporary writing brought to the Fringe by a young and engaging company.
Performances from HiveMCR, Manchester University Drama Society, are of an unwavering high quality. Mr Zeppo’s questionable sanity (he speaks uncomfortable truths but blends them with movie plots and his concerns about chicken nuggets) is brought to life with an infectious and sporadic energy in the performer’s wide, manic, blue eyes.
an infectious and sporadic energy
By contrast, Keaton (Lily Chapell) carries a quiet, but undeniable command, her performance tight and discipled. Yet hers too is all in the eyes, disturbingly cold, they barely flicker at the violence played out in front of them, yet they are paired with a voice that is curious and childlike. It’s a disconcerting combination from a highly versatile young performer.
a disconcerting combination from a highly versatile young performer.
The sound design is also excellent. Deep, dark industrial beats that contribute to the overall sense of heavy concrete slabs and deep, dark underground vaults. I would like to have heard more from this young sound designer, although the silence at the start as we all found a seat was disquieting enough as it was.
Pomona is a cautionary tale of our human responsibility, and our unwillingness to take it. Our unwillingness to see beyond ourselves, and our learned ability to avert our gaze from what we don’t want to see. The setting may be fictional, but it is only one step removed. There are Pomona’s everywhere in cities across the country.
The setting may be fictional, but it is only one step removed.
Pomona is a play worth waking up for (it’s got the morning slot) that should be a wake-up call to city dwellers everywhere. It is interaction with flesh and blood and not concrete that holds a city together, but as we know, and Pomona’s writer Alistair McDowall knows too, it’s just not that simple, not when there are monsters under the bed and around every corner.
Aug 22-25, The Space Triplex, Run Time: 70 minutes