Review: Mark Rylance in Farinelli and the King from the back of the stage and a bit of unscripted drama
Review: Tipping the Velvet, Lyric Hammersmith

Review: Dystopian, fantasy, reality, thriller Pomona, National Theatre

Pomona_Poster_v1_RedLogo_NoTitle_090315A man is standing on a dimly lit stage which is bare except that it gently slopes towards a large square drain cover in the middle. He's wearing a stained and ripped parka: Hood up, sunglasses, bushy beard, no trousers, white y-fronts. Occasionally he does press ups or shadow boxes, otherwise he just stands. He's part funny, part strange, part intimidating. This is Pomona summed in a character.

Alistair McDowall's play is set in Manchester. The Pomona of the title is a real place, an abandoned island in the docks. He's taken something real and twisted it with something that feels dystopian, inflected with fantasy.

Ollie (Nadia Clifford) seeks out the help of our hooded man (Guy Rhys) to find her twin sister who has disappeared and may or may not be in some sort of trouble. The warning is there right from the start in hooded man's comic description of the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark - some things should just be left hidden.

All the roads lead to Pomona a place which wears a shroud of mystery that chills before you even get there. It isn't a linear journey but peopled with jigsaw pieces that gradually fit together to reveal something horrific and strange. It is a journey that threads together the darkest sides of society with dungeons and dragons; myth and grim reality.

Hooded man owns the city but survives by not getting involved. A woman (Rebecca Humphries) hides from her violent policeman husband by working as a prostitute. A jizz-obsessed security guard (Sam Swann) is guarding something that may or may not be legal. He plays dungeons and dragons with a strange, mystery girl (Sarah Middleton) rolling the dice to determine the success of what happens next. Outside the game you can't help feeling that the odds are stacked against Ollie and the rest. Cthulhu the fictional powerful deity who manipulates humans minds hovers in the background.

Pomona is the sort of play that will have you laughing one moment and chilled the next. It will leave you wondering what you just saw generating as many questions as it answers and simultaneously feeding your curiosity and revulsion. It has hints of Philip Ridley and Simon Stephens and feels like a worthy addition to the shelf of contemporary classic drama.

You can catch it at the National Theatre's Other Space (the Shed to you and I) until October 10. It is one hour and 45 minutes without an interval.


I'm sure there is a neater connection than this but I haven't found it yet. It's a long one: Sam Swann and Rebecca Humphries were both in The Kitchen at the NT with Tom Brooke who was in King Lear with Kate Fleetwood who is married to Rupert Goold who directed Mr W in Richard II. Kate F may well have met Mr W as they are both appearing in the Almeida Greeks season but I don't like to assume.