Event Review: Pomona

September 28, 2015

The National Theatre is known for taking chances on smaller plays. Generally, these plays will have done well at another venue around the UK first (or a smaller London venue) before transferring to the Southbank. From here, who knows? The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and War Horse have now been running on the West End for years. Could Pomona be next?

...Probably not. That’s not to say it’s not brilliant and the best play I’ve seen this year (it is) but it doesn’t have the broad appeal to last for more than a few months, such is the subject matter. Young twentysomething Ollie arrives in Manchester looking for her sister and after a few strands of inquiry discovers that all roads lead to the concrete island known as Pomona, where canals run either side and security guards block the entrance to anyone looking to get in. But what’s there? What are they guarding? And most importantly of all, will the two family members be reunited?

Told in a non-linear fashion, Pomona comes across a little like a grittier version of Memento, where everything is dreary and bleak, where nobody would want to go. That being said, one character is trying to make the most of things; Charlie enjoys nothing more than playing his gameboy or Dungeons & Dragons and gives the play a much needed boost of humour every time he’s on stage.

Pomona is not a conventional play. A creation by HP Lovecraft, Cthulhu, silently stalks the opening scene, a character recites a monologue on Raiders of the Lost Ark and a pulsating reverberation dominates the soundscape. The setting itself is reminiscent of the titular Pomona – all we see is a concrete floor with a rusted grate in the centre of the room. Incredibly, that’s it. Aside from the costumes, the rest is left to your imagination.

The writer, Alistair McDowall, is widely regarded as one of the UK’s top young playwrights and has had a smattering of success with previous efforts including Brilliant Adventures, which featured a time machine and Captain Amazing, which featured a super hero as the leading character. So for Pomona being unconventional isn’t entirely unexpected.

Ned Bennett's production is better the less you know about it but touches upon themes of loss, desire and fantasy. There are touching scenes and hilarious ones as well. The Shed at the National Theatre is the perfect venue for such an engrossing play and Pomona comes highly recommended. See it before it departs on October 10th.  



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By Henry Fosdike