Pomona, Orange Tree Theatre, review: Brilliantly creepy and compelling

As we gradually piece together a depraved underworld of prostitution and trafficking, the piece remains forever slippery about recognising evil

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The Independent Culture

The third leg of Paul Miller's opening season as AD strikes out into calculatedly unsettling terrain now with Ned Bennett's ace production of this brilliantly creepy and compelling new work by acclaimed young dramatist, Alistair McDowall.

The in-the-round stage  has been transformed into a grungy sunken trough with an ominous central drain for a piece that combines dystopian angst with black playfulness as it darts back and forth in time and disorientingly blurs the divide between horror games and a much more nightmarish reality.

Ollie (Nadia Clifford) is searching for her twin sister who, like several women, has gone missing. The clues all point to Pomona, a deserted concrete island in the middle of the Manchester, that “looks like the world'll be in a few thousand years”. 

Overlapping with this quest, there's an RPG to foil the Chuthulhu, the octopus-faced god of evil, which is played by misfits Charlie (excellent Sam Swann), an uber-geeky, half-unwitting security guard at Pomona and Sarah Middleton's eery, stern, girl-like Keaton. 

As we gradually piece together an unspeakably depraved underworld of prostitution and trafficking, the piece remains forever slippery about recognising evil, challenging us with the moral ambiguities of its mobius strip nature.

I greatly look forward to seeing McDowell's next work.

To 13 December; 020 8940 3633.

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