A raw and guttural, yet often poignantly humanising story, this production by Secret House is a compelling thriller that keeps you hooked until the very last moment.
Staged in the KXT at the Kings Cross Hotel, Pomona is a tense and captivating play, shrouded in an atmosphere of all kinds of darkness. The lights come up and we meet Ollie, a woman searching desperately for her missing sister. However, despite what we initially believe, we realise quite quickly that this story is not the straightforward search for a missing sibling. The action quickly sweeps through and presents us with an assortment of mysterious and sinister characters caught up in the malevolence surrounding their own lives. The one string that binds them all together is Pomona – an abandoned concrete island in the middle of city. As we watch these characters deal with the things that haunt them, Pomona lurks overhead, reminding them of the consequences of getting involved.
Anthony Skuse takes the reigns for Secret House, directing this 2020 debut. Skuse has successfully conveyed the essence of this play making technically and artistically interesting choices whilst keeping faithful to the nonsequential structure of the narrative, which serves as the primary foundation for the audience to put together the pieces of this puzzle. The use of the ensemble, particularly from a structural sense, heightened the sense of urgency in the piece and enriched the delivery of the often pause-ridden and stop/start dialogue. Artistically, Skuse also ensured that the moments of humour in the text were not lost and it served the audience spectacularly, allowing us to remember that not all stories are supremely dark, there is always light seeping in somewhere.
Performances by Monica Sayers and Jane Angharad were particularly strong with the former giving us a taste of the duality of her character in both high and low status situations and we relished seeing how that changed her behaviour when she is not in control. Angharad’s quiet disposition continually held our attention, playing the opposite end of the dynamic to the rest of the cast and reached us through the subtleties in her performance. However, the principal confrontation between them felt like it didn’t quite hit the boiling point which would’ve been really satisfying to see from these two characters.
James Smithers, Amanda McGregor, Lauren Richardson, Dorje Swallow and Kevin Batliwala complete the remainder of the cast, all giving performances that nestled comfortably within the atmospheric realms of the story. Smithers’ wrenching monologue about his character’s violent history and McGregor’s narration of her character’s heart-stopping foray into Pomona were both stand out moments, both giving authentic performances teeming with emotional distress.
Nate Edmonson and Veronique Benett’s work on sound and lighting design, respectively, further complements the sinister setting of this play and works well in extending the tension and aura of suspense.
Pomona is a play that concurrently treads the delicate lines of surrealism and reality as we are continually recommended to not get involved. Our sense of uncertainty is ubiquitous and we are impelled to speculate what aspects of a situation would drive us to get involved. Whether fear would be potent enough to keep us away and safe or whether our curiosity and desperate need for truth would be too strong and we are inevitably led into danger, or the terrifying void of the unknown. Pomona is an urbanised nightmare that asks us to examine the realities of the horrors that can indeed, at times, feel very surreal.
Venue KXT, Kings Cross Hotel (Kings Cross), 24th Jan – 8th Feb 2020
Director Anthony Skuse
Playwright Alistair McDowall
Cover Image and Production Shots by Clare Hawley
DISCLAIMER: This and all other reviews posted by A Millennial with an Opinion/JTA Official/Jessie Trompp are the honest personal opinions of a theatre-goer and are not reflective in any way of the opinions of others who have seen the production.