|Pomona – at The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond|
This edgy play is best for fantasy and sci-fi fans decides Liz Vercoe.....
That still might not matter if you remain intrigued by the unfolding (or, rather, rolling up) of the story. However, although it’s a story that drags you in with a punch you sometimes feel you are just hanging on in there because, ironically for a fantasy, the core of the story is not quite original enough.
What you do know without any doubt is that the world this play imagines is bleak and unforgiving. And peopled by very damaged individuals who can barely forge speaking relationships, let alone friendships. This is a class or group of people who don’t have a rusty can in a crusher’s chance of improving their circumstances and escaping. It also underlines for anyone and everyone the all-too-present terror of an “unknown something” being out to get you.
Its name and setting is a real place in Manchester. Pomona, the name of the goddess of abundance and fruitfulness is, ironically, the name of a still derelict strip of land, former docks, near Old Trafford and the Lowry Centre. All of which adds meaning to the play. McDowell can remind you of Tom Stoppard with all his referencing.
Under Ned Bennett’s direction the cast deliver the lines masterfully for they are required to both narrate and converse, often in interweaving staccato bursts, just as the stage is often plunged into blackness like very slow strobe lighting. All to a sound backdrop of often atonal music.
All good and building a bigger picture – you’re not short-changed on quality here. But what failed to surprise/shock was the reveal of why people are disappearing in this tale. Common fodder for fiction. And it can also be a problem if half the audience laugh at stuff the other half doesn’t get, leaving them feeling as alienated as the characters in the play. Effective audience participation? Maybe, but I don’t think intentional. But then that never stopped Stoppard, thank goodness.
You can buy the script/programme for £4
Pomona runs until 13 December. Post show talks 27 November 2.30pm and 2 December 7.30pm.