Review: Pomona

Alex Sorgo 15 February 2018

Pomona made its audience find the idea of a young boy’s dream of ejaculating into the faces of the terminally ill and elderly, beautiful (trust me). The drama produced touching moments amidst absurdity, as well as offering humour in the bleak scenarios of its dystopian setting. It is a play patterned by duality (with most scenes two-handers exploring the dynamics of foil characters) but whose symmetry is consistently and intriguingly undermined by inversions and its non-linear plot. Individual scenes gripped you through their exploration of intimate character relationships, while the jumps in chronology and between story-lines, which characterised the overall structure, engaged the audience on a different level. Unlike the earliest science fiction novels, which utilised an immediate ‘info-dump’ style of establishing futuristic settings, Pomona followed in the steps of more sophisticated twenty-first century dystopian world-building like Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which render their visions of an alternative future all the more harrowing through post-modern styles of narration, which only gradually reveal their disturbing prophecies.

The audience’s imagination was kept busy, not only by the script’s purposeful ambiguities and gaps in knowledge, but also due to the minimal choice of set (composed of blank walls, scotch-tape grid laid across the floor and glowing cubes as props). While the sparseness of Corpus’ stage suited the futuristic setting, it also participated in amplifying the disorientation of the play’s structure. Nevertheless, where the set design was bare, much of the atmosphere was effectively created through musical interludes that accompanied not only scene changes, but also moments where the music seemed to externalise societal attitudes and individual characters’ internal psychology.

The play’s eclectic range of characters was brought to life with excellent performances by the whole cast. The play opened in media res of an exuberant monologue delivered by Zeppo [Benedict Clarke], which set the tone for the blackly comic and morally problematic universe of the subsequent action. The energy with which the play begun was impressively maintained throughout its first half, intensified even, in particularly striking moments of rage created by Gale [Dolores Carbonari] and Moe [Harry Redding] respectively. However, the play’s latter half on its opening night began to lag somewhat. Noticeable silences at first highlighted the audience’s intense interest in what was happening on stage. However, as moments of silence became more frequent, they indicated that the pace had slackened. Nevertheless, despite its slower latter half, the play’s conclusion proved perhaps the most impressive moment of the production. In a transfixing episode of physical theatre, the mysteries of what had been going on underground were unfolded in a mesmerising sequence of movement and dialogue performed by the entire cast.

Overall the directorial choices were strong and presented what was a very challenging production in a sophisticated manner. The attention to detail and sense of a coherent thematic direction of the play were conveyed from the outset by the pre-set and post set decision to have characters covered in plastic sheets toying with rubix cubes in a way that foreshadowed the cyclical complicities of ignorance the play problematises. And by returning to the same positions at the end, the audience had an added awareness that the same events would be produced by the actors the next night. As though they have already returned to their pre-set poses for the next performance (to be preserved under the plastic sheet for twenty-two hours), the production ends with a disturbing sense of events repeating themselves.