Director: Neil Bennett
Writer: Alistair McDowall
Ollie (Clifford) is trying to find her sister. Meeting with a man who owns much of the city (Rhys), she is told that girls have been going missing all across Manchester and there are rumours it has something to do with Pomona. Moe and Charlie (Rigby & Swann) are security guards stationed at the gates to the island where there is a hatch leading underground, but neither know what they are guarding. But as their boss (Sandall) gives them a task far beyond their job, they are forced to make a terrible choice.
Director Neil Bennett has treated this play with the unsettling discomfort it deserves. Plunging the audience into pitch blackness, assaulting them with strobe, bursts of discordant sound and frantic Berkovian scene changes, the dystopian misery plays upon a raked concrete floor with the grilled hatch at its centre, with little else but the actors and a terrifying octopus mask to tell the story. While the script alludes to scenes' locations, this does not bind movement within the space, as we buy into this stage as a quasi-halfworld somewhere between reality and hell itself. If the characters say they're in a car, they're in a car; if they're flying above the city, they're flying above the city. The hatch is alluding to so much unimaginable horror beyond it that by the end of the play you believe that if THAT can be true, then so can anything else in this room. And the more stylised the staging becomes, the easier the misery is to deal with.
Pomona may not reflect the Manchester we all know, but the play is about the world we don't see, or even know exists. We hear every day of abhorrent crimes bubbling to the surface all over the city, but feel safe because of its gleaming facade. Pomona itself is a blight on that; a mile-long gash cut into the regeneration and the consumerism and the twenty-first century Manchester. The idea that this is the city's portal into its own underbelly is disquieting and turns a seemingly innocuous place into something so much more; a scab atop a festering wound; a tumour waiting to pollute the whole city. Pomona is a play that makes you examine humanity itself and for someone who loves Manchester so much, it made me painfully aware of the depravity of some of the humans contained within it.