Pomona.  Part story, part emotional response. It’s like lifting a stone and looking at the underbelly of the world without really understanding what is happening, just drawn to watching everything that is going on in that microcosm.  As writer Alistair McDowell says ‘it’s all going down in Pomona’.  As the programme explains, ‘the play is a game, or a loop, or a nightmare, or a hole, or a city – or all of these at once’.  It’s powerful, often grim, sometimes very funny, and very well written.

Ollie’s sister is missing.  What lies between them is the dark underworld of Manchester.  A world of violence, prostitution, apathy and control.  Scenes are non-linear; it is the world that is created that is important, the stories that flow through this world, and the characters that inhabit them.  The central Dungeons and Dragons game slides from roleplay into reality; the game dice drive parts of the narrative.  With actors creating strong and unique characters, the action is compelling.

But for all the excellent writing and acting, what really stands out and makes this production a fast moving, intense spectacle is the direction from Ned Bennett, recently seen at the Royal Exchange with Yen.  From the start this play is defined by blackouts and white light, and these are cleverly used to accentuate scenes and scene changes.  The whole of the available space – a simple set with a central drain – is used to great effect, with well choreographed movement.  This production never lets up for the ninety minutes (without interval).  It’s all very fast, quite surreal, and a lot of the play exists in the shadows.

All credit to the Royal Exchange for bringing this play to Manchester.  It was the Bruntwood Prize that brought Alistair McDowell to our attention with Brilliant Adventures in 2013, and it feels the right place for this play to be performed.

I regularly run in Pomona; I certainly won’t be turning over any of the concrete blocks that line the paths.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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