Pomona. A dark, empty plot of land in the centre of Manchester. Ollie searches for her sister. Charlie and Moe guard the gates. Keaton makes a friend. Fay is stuck working for Gale. And Zeppo? Zeppo eats chicken nuggets… In a place where nothing is quite what it seems, join Minotaur Theatre Company on their journey into this nightmarish world. Friends will be made and lost, you will run around in circles, but if you roll the dice, secrets just might be revealed…
So the premise for Alistair McDowell’s Pomona is set: the play loops around in circles, gradually accumulating momentum as we watch the characters spin out of control as they get lost in this “nightmarish world”. It’s a world of crime, Cthulu and Rubix cubes. The play starts on a quietly unsettling note, which sets the scene for the manic series of episodes that follow, throwing the audience into the middle of a non-chronological plotline fraught with disturbing imagery that undermines any illusions on suburban life, in a manner reminiscent of David Lynch.
The play opens with the story of Ollie, who seeks help from Zeppo in finding her missing sister. This leads us to encounter a cast of characters who each play an important role in the seedy underground world that we discover lurking literally in the centre of the city. From sex workers to reformed abusers, Pomona features a cast of characters who are as emotionally complex as they are intrinsically linked to the story and to each other.
The story is masterfully told and directed, evenly showcasing each character’s facets and faces. The tone ranges from comically sweet to shudderingly dark, and the characters are all amazingly well-acted, particularly that of Charlie (played by Pete Rapp), who succeeds in switching between lovably innocent and heartbreakingly tragic.
A major theme here is that of circularity. By starting on a note of intrigue, Pomona draws the audience in, only to leave them on the same scene, only now with a new sense of understanding. This feeds into one of the play’s key messages: is it better to seek out answers, or accept that some questions are better left unanswered? This is something that each and every character has to deal with at some point, and they must all in turn face the consequences of their decisions.
In the publicity surrounding it, the play was characterised by a Cthuluesque mask, which is symbolic for the level to which the characters, and on a broader level society as a whole, hide their true selves. Pomona exemplifies an attempt to get to the truth, no matter what that may hold.