Pomona @ The Shed (National Theatre) Review

Situated in the centre of Manchester lies a very dark secret… Its name… Pomona. Many have speculated the goings on of this mysterious setting, however their questions and speculations appear to be as useful as a never ending corridor… as questions multiply, and yet remain unanswered.

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Alistair McDowall offers a twisted mythical tale for our times, as Pomona takes residence at the National Theatre‘s contemporary and experimental venue, The Shed. A commentary on the landscape we find ourselves living in, the economy, politics and the digital revolution all face a degree of scrutiny in McDowall’s quirky and irreverent script. The initially ambiguous world McDowall envisions powerfully draws the audience to attention. As a young girl searches for her lost sister, a trail of questions pepper the production. Where could her sister have disappeared to? Why has she gone/ been taken to this location? Was anybody involved in her disappearance? The genius of McDowall’s script is that the manner in which it presents itself is labyrinthine. This in itself encourages the audience to work and piece the production together, rather than being passive and spoon fed.
A patch work of characters inhabit Georgia Lowe‘s dingy, dystopian setting. The hexagonal drainage system is in equal parts aesthetically impressive as well as terrifying. Whether it be green dice being placed at each corner of the drainage system, or a pool of blood eerily filling up centre stage, the staging delivers a star turn all of its own. An unpredictable ensemble intrigue, with conversations meandering through speculation of Pomona’s existence to the potential whereabouts of Ollie’s sister. Guy Rhys delivers an electrifying performance as Zeppo, the ring master of the fictional city we’re yet to explore, his energy bounces of the walls. Nadia Clifford showcases growth in her performance as Ollie, her steely nature towards the latter half of the production offering a complete contrast to the fearful character we are introduced to in the beginning.

Sam Swann and Sean Rigby as Moe and Charlie offer the straight laced/ useless clown dynamic. Conventional theatrically, this initially comic convention injects a sense of sadness as the duo of unconventional security guards slowly come to realise what their purpose is. Their boss, the brash and ballsy Rochenda Sandall keeps them both on their toes As Gale, dictating their every move, nipping any questions or defiance they may have at the bud.

Sarah Middleton
‘s Keaton mystifies. Her performance gripping, as she presents herself as an enigma. Alien-like in her demeanour, seemingly emotionless, she imitates the movements of others or simply observes which keeps the audience on edge. Polly Bennett‘s movement direction brilliantly ties the narrative together, pushing scenes forward effortlessly.

Elliot Grigg‘s lighting design is striking in its creativity, a sinister being in it’s own right, the setting is abruptly adorned in darkness, to only be brought back to the light and reveal the emergence or disappearance of various characters. Ned Bennett directs a piece that yo-yo’s between the down to earth, and the complete absurd,  however some scenes feel longer than they should be, and I’m therefore left wondering whether this is due to the energy level, or a script overwritten?

Pomona is a clever show filled with very important themes. If you’re looking for a gritty, fantastical production, this is a show for you. 3.5/5

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Pomona is currently showing at the National Theatre until Saturday 10th October. For more information on the production, visit here…

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