Left – Artemis Ioannides and Mona Mina Leon. Cover – Nicholas Denton and Arthur Angel. Photos – Teresa Noble
Take a journey into the dark atmospheric world of Red Stich’s Pomona, a twisted horror story that could have been taken straight from the news or a Black Mirror episode. Alistair McDowall’s play is not so much a cautionary tale of the future of humanity, but an all too real depiction of the dystopian universe we are already living in. Greed and corruption reign supreme in the troubled city of Manchester as the slimy Zeppo, played with slick precision by Dion Mills oversees, or rather turns a blind eye to the gruesome reality of the seedy underbelly.
At the literal centre of the city is Pomona, a concrete island, with one road in and one road out, a mysterious and haunted place watched over by security guards Charlie (Nicholas Denton) and Moe (Arthur Angel). Angel’s “tough guy” is the perfect contrast to Denton’s sweet and funny Charlie, who’s love for role playing games leads him to befriend Keaton, (Artemis Ionides) a strange loner who responds to his advertisement for Dungeons and Dragons players.
Here within this Gotham city like environment, a city with alas no Batman to save the day, the audience watch as the city and its people destruct. Director Gary Abrahams sets the tone of the production from the outset, the audience walks through a tunnel of smoke and darkness to enter this grimy world in what is almost an immersive experience.
Pomona is a challenging ensemble piece; the actors are rarely offstage and remain watching the harrowing tale unfold from the sidelines unable to prevent the inevitable from occurring, or perhaps complicit in the resolution.
Pomona dives into the scourge of humanity and raises issues of blatant misogyny, assault, rape porn and organ harvesting. With each gruesome unfolding, what is most riveting and in turn troubling is that it is not particularly shocking. There’s nothing within Pomona that couldn’t be in today’s news.
Underneath it all, McDowell has tried to leave the audience with a sliver of hope, that despite all the darkness, all the horrific subject matter, connection is the key to survival. The relationship between Keaton and Charlie is at its core two kids playing games to escape reality. The small moments of tenderness, a sister searching for her twin, a mother simply wanting to protect her child and a violent man looking for peace are the fragments that hold humanity together.
Pomona is a dark and thought provoking piece, wonderfully directed by Abrahams and performed with macabre care by the ensemble.
Red Stich Actors Theatre presents
by Alistair McDowall
Director Gary Abrahams
Venue: Red Stich | Rear, 2 Chapel St, St Kilda East VIC
Dates: 9 July – 11 August 2019