The dark subject matter of Pomona has not proved a threat to the capabilities of Peripeteia Productions: the cast and crew have succeeded in creating a deftly executed and cohesive piece. Blending reality and the virtual reality of role playing games (‘RPGs’) into the play-world makes for a thought-provoking, deeply disturbing piece of theatre that feels at once impossible and distressingly real.
Pomona plays with time, charting a series of connections between pairs of characters on a concrete island in the middle of the city, that Zeppo (Joe Peden) is paid to rent out. Pomona has its own security guards, Moe (Hugo Mcpherson) and Charlie (James Tibbles), who have no idea what they are guarding, but cannot escape being involved – especially when the friend-hunting Charlie chances across the mysterious Keaton (Francesca Amewudah-Rivers). Ollie (India Phillips) is looking for her twin sister, and Fay (Miranda Collins) knows that girls are disappearing, suspecting it has something to do with her boss (Lucy Miles).
The technical elements of Lucy Hayes and Finlay Stroud’s production work in perfect harmony with the text. Jonny Danciger must be praised for his use of light and sound – it was evident that he had a great understanding of the piece, and had orchestrated the relationship between light and sound so that the two worked together with the utmost sophistication. In the context of student drama sound and lighting are often things to be ‘forgiven’, and I myself have been guilty of keeping things as simple as possible to ensure functionality. Danciger must therefore be heartily commended for pulling off this feat of technicality.
James Tibbles was perfect as Charlie, and he worked well against Hugo Mcpherson’s Moe both in terms of physicality and their contrasting deliveries. Lucy Miles was suitably frantic without being too shouty, and Miranda Collins handled particularly difficult subject matter with sensitivity and strength, as did India Philips. Joe Peden’s introduction was perfectly paced, and started us immediately questioning the fine line between dark humour and something more sinister, a mindset we didn’t leave for the rest of the piece. Francesca Amewudah-Rivers should be praised for her physical rigidity – even when playing a Dungeons and Dragons inspired game with Tibbles we were all too aware of her dangerously masochistic tendencies, and her ability to ‘end’ everything with one order. The cast worked well as a unit, though the lack of Manchester accents (beyond Peden, for whom it comes naturally) was perhaps a missed opportunity for more characterisation.
Pomona was impressively slick, especially for an opening night, and Hayes is at her best with physical sequences involving the whole ensemble. The second of these was particularly effective, taking the dice from the RPG and giving a character options. What we were watching turned into a game, even as the character’s life was on the line. Rubik’s Cubes were also used throughout to the same effect, adding to the creepy set-up but also representing life as a series of decisions.
Overall, Pomona is a disturbing and gripping piece of theatre, and Peripeteia Productions rise valiantly to the challenge of the text, making this production well worth catching.