REVIEW: Black Men Walking (Royal Exchange, Manchester)

 © Tristram Kenton
© Tristram Kenton
Upstaged Rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐

Inspired by a real-life Sheffield-based Black men’s walking group, Black Men Walking is an influential and compelling brand new play written by Leeds-based rapper and theatre-maker Testament (aka Andy Brooks) in collaboration with Eclipse Theatre Company.

On the first Saturday of every month, a group of Black men meet to ramble through the Peak District. Taking in Yorkshire’s breathtaking landscape – it’s a way of escaping the day to day, making new friends and sharing their identity as Black and British together. The men talk about their own personal life experiences and discuss stories of the Black people who walked Yorkshire long before them; reaching as far back as Roman times, they claim it was an African who put the York into Yorkshire.

This particular Saturday it is just Thomas (Tyrone Huggins), Matthew (Trevor Laird) and Richard (Tonderai Munyevu) who show up for the monthly walk as the other group members have been deterred, due to the stormy weather forecast. The characters are beautifully layered, and each of their different experiences are explored, from difficult family relationships and music to racism and the way the media portray Black men.

Under Dawn Walton’s well-paced direction, Tonderai Munyevu gives a finely nuanced performance as Richard – fresh from a Star Trek convention and laden with a selection of chocolate bars, he is kind-natured and incredibly funny. Southerner Matthew is strongly portrayed by Trevor Laird – a doctor and family man, who is constantly receiving messages on his phone, hinting that he has some issues at home. Tyrone Huggins’ Thomas is the most senior member of the group, possibly showing early signs of memory problems and hallucinations associated with dementia. When the men find young millennial Ayeesha, played by the captivating Dorcas Sebuyange, on the top of the Peaks, their experience swiftly changes as the full complexities associated with being Black and British are unravelled.

Testament’s writing is poetic and punchy; honest and important; witty and urgent. Black Men Walking faces stereotypes head on and then blows them apart in order to present the real identities of Black people living in Britain today. This is a much-needed production which seeks to illuminate Black Britain’s important identities and missing histories.

-Kristy Stott

Black Men Walking runs at Manchester’s Royal Exchange until 3 February 2018.

Our favourite productions of 2017

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We’ve had premieres, modern adaptations and watched some shows receive West End transfers – the Manchester stages have been truly brilliant this year. Here is Upstaged Manchester’s round-up of theatrical highlights through 2017. Which shows would make your list?

The Suppliant Women at the Royal Exchange

The Suppliant Women was certainly one of the most extraordinary theatrical events that I have ever seen. Debating ideas of identity and asylum, the story strikes a shrill chord now – in our current migrant crisis – as it ever did over two thousand years ago. The most impressive aspect of this show was the chorus, made up of thirty-five girls aged between 16 and 26. Thrilling, shocking and painfully good. The Suppliant Women is just one jewel in what has been a bold and exciting season for the Royal Exchange.

The Father at Oldham Coliseum

Kenneth Alan Taylor in The Father at Oldham Coliseum © Joel C Fildes
Kenneth Alan Taylor in The Father at Oldham Coliseum
© Joel C Fildes

It is rare that we experience dementia from the perspective of the person who is struggling with it, rather we experience it from the viewpoint of family members and carers. Oldham Coliseum triumphed in presenting The Father, a highly engaging but charming, heart-rending though witty, interpretation of Andre’s struggle with the disease. With a tremendous performance from Kenneth Alan Taylor, many people were left moved as the show came down. This was a flawless production that managed to get people talking, sharing and understanding dementia together.

The Band at The Opera House

The Band is a complete triumph –  it’s not just a musical for Take That groupies, but a musical for anybody who grew up with a boyband. Tugging hard at your heartstrings and tickling your funny bone, with a sterling cast and Take That’s wonderful floor-fillers, I was thrilled to find out that the musical will tour for an extra year following the huge demand for tickets. Truly feel-good and fabulous.

Uncle Vanya at HOME

Director Walter Meierjohann brought this deeply layered and finely nuanced production to complete fruition. Fascinating and truly absorbing, every word managed to strike new meaning. Nick Holder’s Uncle Vanya straddled the tragicomic perfectly, giving the best Vanya that I have seen, and all of the ensemble gave top-notch performances. This interpretation of the Chekov favourite was completely consuming.

Reviewer – Elise Gallagher:

Yank! at Hope Mill Theatre

Yank! at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester © Anthony Robling
Yank! at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
© Anthony Robling

 

My first review for Upstaged and my introduction to a fantastic venue – Hope Mill Theatre. A fresh musical which I feel took everyone by surprise and has introduced a new chapter of theatre in Manchester. I was thrilled to hear that Yank! received a well-deserved West End transfer.

Jane Eyre at The Lowry

One of my favourite stories translated onto the stage – it broke my heart (but in a good way!) and did Charlotte Bronte justice. Adapting a novel for the stage is a challenging prospect, especially such a timeless classic like Jane Eyre.

Reviewer: Daniel Shipman

Cotton Panic (MIF) at Upper Campfield Market Hall

© Charl Marais
© Charl Marais

Manchester International Festival audiences who ventured away from Festival Square, down Deansgate to the atmospheric Upper Campfield Market Hall were rewarded with a powerhouse performance from Jane Horrocks in Cotton Panic. This linked Manchester’s industrial heritage to the US Civil War in a truly enlightening way, whilst also serving up an innovative, entertaining, genre-defying piece of theatre. For me, it was the highlight of the festival.

People, Places and Things at HOME

Following a 2015 debut at London’s National Theatre, the touring version of Headlong’s People, Places & Things opened at HOME in September 2017. A perfect example of how to bring quality theatre out of London, this production drew on seemingly limitless reserves of energy to propel the audience through a tale of addiction and recovery. Lisa Dwyer Hogg had big shoes to fill after Denise Gough won an Olivier in the central role, but the power and nuance of her performance blew me away.

How to Save the World Without Really Trying at HOME

This was my first experience of self-described ‘drag aliens’ Bourgeois & Maurice, and I am already a devoted fan. The chemistry between the two is as good as you will ever see on stage, and the songs are well-written and hilarious. Get along to one of their shows if you possibly can, and if not check out their albums on Spotify.


Merry Christmas to each and every one of you – thank you for all of your support this year.

Wishing you all the best in 2018.

-Kristy Stott

upstagedlogo

Review: Jubilee ( Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

PHOTO CREDIT: Johan Persson
PHOTO CREDIT: Johan Persson
Guest Reviewer: Daniel Shipman
Upstaged Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jubilee is a riot. From the slogans spray-painted on to plywood surrounding the Royal Exchange’s in-the-round space to the chaotic way the cast commandeer the stage, it is obvious from the start that this is no ordinary night at the theatre.

 An adaption of Derek Jarman’s punk film from the 1970s, Jubilee revolves around Amyl Nitrate (Travis Alabanza) and her loose collective of societal outcasts. As Amyl, Alabanza is a revelation – her heartfelt, angry, intelligent monologues are highlights of the show and I have never witnessed someone engage an audience more skilfully.

 Expertly adapted by director Chris Goode, this production brings what could have been a nostalgic glance back at punk kicking and screaming in to 2017. There are references to the Grenfell Tower disaster which occurred in June, and even the Kevin Spacey scandal which broke less than a week before previews began.

 The structure of the show is as anarchic as the rest of it; anybody looking for a coherent, sensible plot will be disappointed. What you get instead is a series of snapshots in which Amyl and her friends attempt to leave their mark on society, whether that is through performance art, sex, music or violence. As in life, the boundaries between these things are blurred.

 Forty years on from starring as Mad in the film, Toyah Wilcox plays Elizabeth I. She spends most of the time presiding over the production from a throne on the first gallery with very little to say, but the moments when she does speak allow for welcome periods of calm – something you won’t find anywhere else in the show.

 Goode’s production is constantly self-referential, it never wants you to forget that you are watching a piece of theatre. Indeed, Lee Curran’s lighting design keeps the audience lit for several scenes and the cast don’t hesitate to playfully put their arms around the shoulders of audience members.

 Whether you love it or hate it, I promise Jubilee will be unlike anything you’ve seen on stage before.

-Daniel Shipman

Jubilee runs at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre until 18th November 2017 and you can get your tickets here.

REVIEW: Twelfth Night (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Faith Omole as Viola in Twelfth Night at Manchester's Royal Exchange © Jonathan Keenan
Faith Omole as Viola in Twelfth Night at Manchester’s Royal Exchange
© Jonathan Keenan
UPSTAGED RATING: 

“If music be the food of love, play on” and certainly the production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at Manchester’s Royal Exchange is full of music, mirth and mischief, particularly during one particular night of mayhem when encouraged by Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Harry Attwell), a drunken Sir Toby (Simon Armstrong) wakes up the household with his electric guitar.

Following a terrible storm, Viola has found herself shipwrecked and washed up on the sandy and unfamiliar shores of Illyria. In her only bid for survival, Viola (Faith Omole) disguises herself as male, changes her name to Cesario, and goes to work in the household of Duke Orsino (Kevin Harvey). With powerful waves of unrequited love, gender and sexual identity guiding Shakespeare’s verse – this production at the Royal Exchange is a complete success and arguably one of the best Shakespeare adaptations that I have seen.

Quirky casting by Vicky Richardson teamed with Jo Davies’ intelligent direction makes for a refreshing interpretation of a play that was written over 400 years ago. Kate Kennedy’s striking Olivia towers over Faith Omole’s diminutive Cesario; confidante Cesario holds the punch bag gingerly while Orsino bolsters and pummels. Our Malvolio, played by Anthony Calf, gives a perfect portrayal of the party-pooper and prissy steward. Davies and Designer Leslie Travers substitute Malvolio’s traditional yellow stockings and cross-gartered look in favour of gaudy lycra MAMIL attire.

Kate O’Donnell steals the show as a witty, lively and self-assured Feste. Giving a whole new perspective to the character, O’Donnell exudes elegance and foolery. Dressed in a luminous turquoise get up and feathered head-dress, she reminds me of a glamorous Statue of Liberty. Suggestive of freedom in regards to gender and sexual identity and almost definitely reminding us of the lack of trans actors on the professional stage.

Alex Baranowski’s Eastern European musical score of fiddler, harpsichord and folk vocalist Kate Young provide a pleasing backdrop to the romantic entanglements, frivolous comedy and disguises in love. In a poignant framing, the Eastern tones lay the sombre tone for Viola’s shipwreck at the very start and then return for The Wind and The Rain ditty delivered by Feste at the end of the performance. As the lights fade and the melancholy returns O’Donnell feeds new life and meaning into Shakespeare’s poetry, singing the final line  “When I was a little boy.” Absolutely captivating.

-Kristy Stott

Twelfth Night runs at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre until 20 May 2017 and you can get your tickets here.

REVIEW: The Mighty Walzer (Royal Exchange, Manchester)

Elliot Levey, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Jonathan Tafler in The Mighty Walzer at Manchester's Royal Exchange © Jonathan Keenan
Elliot Levey, Tracy-Ann Oberman and Jonathan Tafler in The Mighty Walzer at Manchester’s Royal Exchange
© Jonathan Keenan

 

upstaged rating:  

The wonderful and hilarious Man Booker Prize winner, The Mighty Walzer by Howard Jacobson, bounces into the Royal Exchange in a world premiere stage adaptation by Simon Bent. Bent’s adaptation of The Mighty Walzer is a real scream, giving the Royal Exchange’s audience an uplifting dose of superb theatre to close the season on.

The Mighty Walzer is a lively semi-autobiographical story charting Jacobson’s experience of growing up in Prestwich. It’s a coming-of-age story about a quiet Jewish boy who moves into the slightly odd and passionate world of ping-pong, alongside discovering girls and applying for a place to study at Cambridge University.

Elliot Levey leads the cast perfectly, bearded with a smart suit, he projects the Jewish teen Oliver Walzer as well as providing the humorous mature tone of Jacobson’s narrator. Levey engages warmly with his audience, looking at members of the crowd directly – his performance feels personal. Jonathan Humphrey’s impressive direction is pacey and playful, reminding me of ‘Kevin Arnold’ and ‘The Wonder Years’ from my youth. The Mighty Walzer is feel-good theatre, intelligently executed.

Tracy-Ann Obermann shines as Sadie, Oliver’s extravagant but caring mother – her half empty glass contrasts comically with dad, Joel Walzer played by Jonathan Tafler – forever the optimist, selling odd bits and bobs out of the back of his van. There are strong performances throughout from Ann Marcuson as Sadie’s eccentric twin sisters Dolly and Dora; Daniel Abelson, Joe Coen and David Crellin also impress as big influencers during Oliver’s formative teenage years.

The Mighty Walzer will leave you smiling from ear to ear and possibly reflecting on your own awkward teenage memories. The laughter from the audience filled the Royal Exchange’s Great Hall on the night that I attended – a certain testament to how fine this production is. Don’t just take my word for it – go and see for yourselves.

-Kristy Stott

The Mighty Walzer runs at the Royal Exchange, Manchester until Saturday 30th July 2016 and you can click here to get your tickets.

REVIEW – King Lear (The Royal Exchange, Manchester)

Don Warrington as King Lear and Miltos Yerolemou as The Fool.
© Jonathan Keenan
UPSTAGED RATING: 

Talawa Theatre Company has been making theatre since 1986 and to mark their 30th anniversary year, and to commemorate 400 years since Shakespeare’s death artistic director Michael Buffong returns to the play he first directed in 1994, King Lear.

In this co-production between Talawa Theatre, Manchester’s Royal Exchange and Birmingham Rep, Don Warrington steps into the royal breaches and takes on the title role. William Shakespeare’s story of a kingdom divided with devastating political and personal repercussions still remains highly pertinent to a modern audience. Striking a chord with a contemporary crowd particularly in the wake of Scottish Independence and the looming EU opt in or opt out discussion. Perhaps most poignantly, this production explores ideas around our aging society and dementia.

Entering to the single steady beat of the drum, Warrington appears wearing a heavy cloak and furs, every inch the look of a formidable leader. He traces the dominant character’s slow descent from greatness to confusion and shame.

“I have, so to speak, lost myself.”

Fists clenched desperately holding on to the sleeve of his robes indicative of his struggle to retain clarity in an increasingly murky world. There is some well-observed physicality from Warrington – his awkward gait and empty stare are all suggestive of a man battling with dementia. However, Warrington’s delivery of the text is lacking in fluidity which means that some of Shakespeare’s powerful rhetoric is lost at times and most particularly during the famous storm in the wilderness scene.

Signe Beckmann’s design is completely stripped back to an empty performance space with the characters dressed in period costumes, and the danger is that it all feels very habitual RSC and old fashioned. The combination of Johanna Tom’s atmospheric lighting design and Tayo Akinbode’s ethereal soundscape is a match made in heaven, especially during the apocalyptic downpour at the end of the first half.

The ensemble cast are all impressive and fearless throughout and all give remarkable performances. Miltos Yerolemou gives a well-balanced performance as The Fool, both humorous and touching; Alfred Enoch gives a mesmerising performance as Edgar – compassionate and honest, much in contrast to his brother Edmund, an ambitious opportunist, again played strongly by Fraser Ayres. Pepter Lunkuse shines as the good-hearted, youngest daughter Cordelia and Rakie Ayola and Debbie Korley give fully realised performances as bloodthirsty sisters, Goneril and Regan.

Philip Whitchurch as The Earl of Gloucester is outstanding with his gory ocular fate prompting the most audible response from the audience during the lengthy 3 and a half hour running time.

-Kristy Stott

King Lear is running at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester until Saturday 7 May 2015.

REVIEW – Husbands & Sons (The Royal Exchange, Manchester)

Anne-Marie Duff as Lizzie Holroyd in Husbands & Sons.
© Manuel Harlan
UPSTAGED RATING: 

The Royal Exchange Theatre provides the perfect performance space for this compelling drama about a mining community living in a small village in Nottinghamshire in 1911. Following the lives of three different families over a period of three weeks, Husbands & Sons interweaves three of DH Lawrence’s masterpieces into one new play – and the result is nothing short of an absolute triumph.

From the minute the lighting rig is hoisted up, Husbands and Sons reveals a working class community surviving as best they can in the shadow of a miners strike. It’s a powerful depiction of three desperate households – The Holroyds, The Lamberts and The Gascoignes. While husbands and sons battle at the coalface, the focus lies on the women in this community. Despite the title, it is the wives, mothers and daughters stories which are subject to excavation.

Each household is separated in the performance space by a gridded iron walkway, although many of the characters are on stage in their respective homes at the same time. As the drama unfolds within each family, the audience can follow the goings-on in each household. This intelligent juxtaposition aids the narrative, building up tension and making it easy to follow, ensuring that each scene moves smoothly through to the next.

Husband’s & Sons has the perfect line-up of creatives and performers – it’s like getting all of the best in their field working together on one show. Olivier-Award winning Bunny Christie has designed the detailed set for the three households, complete with fire, running water and a caged sense of impending doom. Director Marianne Elliott, of War Horse and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is at the helm of a truly phenomenal cast.

Anne-Marie Duff is astounding as Lizzie Holroyd, the downtrodden wife of an alcoholic miner – arresting, believable and entirely gripping. Julia Ford masterfully plays frustrated Lydia Lambert, tolerating her obnoxious husband – she is a controlling mother who just wants a better future for her children. Louise Brealey shines as newly-wed, house proud Minnie Gascoigne, bringing a sense of spontaneity and innocence to the stage as she struggles to deal with the dark secrets in her marriage.

This production makes for 3 hours of heartfelt and gritty viewing, though not without humour. With an outstanding cast and ingenious design, Husbands & Sons is an absolute must-see – bold, beautiful and perfectly staged in the Great Hall of Manchester’s Royal Exchange. And when that lighting rig falls, you wish that you could watch it all over again.

-Kristy Stott

Husbands & Sons is running at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester until Saturday 19 March 2016.

REVIEW – WIT (The Royal Exchange, Manchester)

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Julie Hesmondhalgh in WIT at the Royal Exchange, Manchester ©Jonathan Keenan

Upstaged Rating: 

Wit is Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, a humorous, emotional and ultimately devastating story set in the final few hours of Dr Vivian Bearing’s life.

Dr Vivian Bearing is an American Professor of 17th-century poetry specialising in the metaphysical works of John Donne. A brilliant university lecturer and scholar, she now finds herself diagnosed with advanced metastatic ovarian cancer. While in university she was the tough teacher; now as an inpatient in a university teaching hospital she is the one being examined and studied.

Julie Hesmondhalgh is magnificent in the title role of Dr Vivian Bearing, playing out the final hours of Vivian’s life and also flashbacks to her past. Despite tackling the a subject as harrowing as cancer, Wit is delivered with a brittle humour resisting any kind of sentimentality – with Vivian realising, towards the end, that she prefers kindness to intellectualism. Her slim frame is covered by 2 hospital gowns and she wears a pink baseball cap on her hairless head – she is articulate and chooses the words she uses with care. Brutally announcing ‘I will never forget the time that I found out I had cancer’ the stage turns and we are transported back to when she first received the prognosis from Dr Kelekian (Tom Hodgkins).

Hannah Clark’s set design of a revolving stage and blue-green walkway and swing doors is perfectly suggestive of a sterile hospital environment. Chairs, hospital beds and IV poles are wheeled and passed urgently about the stage as clinical observation is pitted against the raw human emotion of Hesmondhalgh’s shattering performance.

Raz Shaw‘s direction is paced and perceptive and the supportive cast are also strong – Esh Alladi is superb as purposeful clinical fellow Dr Jason Possner MD, lacking empathy and communication skills – he brands the bedside manner course at med school ‘a colossal waste of time’. In contrast, Jenny Platt as Nurse Susie Monahan offers an alternative presence – finding time to moisturise Vivian’s hands when talking becomes difficult. Julie Legrand is impressive as the university academic who first taught Vivian about Donne and the power of punctuation.

Manchester’s Royal Exchange has certainly started the new year with a cracking show and  Julie Hesmondhalgh gives a striking performance at the centre of it. Cancer is a hard subject matter to tackle on stage, especially in a performance as honest as this – Wit may make some cry but it will definitely make everyone laugh, think and discuss.

-Kristy Stott

Wit is at the Royal Exchange until Saturday 13th February 2016 and you can get your tickets here

REVIEW – Into The Woods (The Royal Exchange, Manchester)

Into The Woods — The Royal Exchange, Manchester
© Jonathan Keenan
DATE: 9 december 2015
UPSTAGED RATING: 

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Christmas production is always a welcomed alternative to the traditional festive fare and this year Artistic Director Matthew Xia has taken on the Stephen Sondheim spectacular, Into The Woods. With a notoriously challenging musical score that makes even highly accomplished musicians run for the hills, Manchester’s Royal Exchange makes Into the Woods look like a walk in the park. Laden with wit, plenty of trees and stellar performances throughout –  the execution and delivery of this contemporary fairytale adventure is superb.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the book by James Lapine, Into The Woods takes the main characters from Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella and intertwines each of their fairytale quests. The musical is tied together with an original story about a baker, his wife and their wish to start a family. As the result of a witch’s curse, the couple are childless and their only hope is to reverse the evil spell by venturing into the forest to track down a list of ingredients.

The show runs at a lengthy three hours – the first act is a complete joy ending on a high with every character getting their wish. The second act sees a darker evaluation and the arrival of a giant, with booming voiceover by Maxine Peake, who threatens to undo all of the good work.

Into The Woods — The Royal Exchange, Manchester
© Jonathan Keenan

Puppeteer Rachel Goodwin moves the emaciated Milky White perfectly with David Moorst playing foolish Jack. Prepare yourself for Natasha Cottriall’s Little Red Riding Hood’s encounter with Michael Peavoy’s Wolf which is hilariously funny – with a clever illusion that will keep you guessing.

Award-winning actress Gillian Bevan becomes The Witch and intelligent costume design means she carries an impressive vegetable patch around with her too. Note-perfect performances from Francesca Zoutewelle as Cinderella and Isabelle Peters as the disturbed but angelic-voiced Rapunzel. The show is packed with laughs throughout but comic highlights are definitely reached during the ‘Agony’  duet between Rapunzel’s Prince, Marc Elliott and Cinderella’s Prince, Michael Peavoy.

Suitable for ages 10 and up, Matthew Xia’s Into The Woods is a triumph – with its glorious Sondheim musical score, arranged by Julian Kelly and played superbly by a live band, with top-notch performances all round – it should certainly be on your must-see list this Christmas.

-Kristy Stott

Into The Woods is running at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester until Saturday 16 January 2016.

REVIEW – Pomona (The Royal Exchange, Manchester)

Orange Tree Theatre presents in association with the National Theatre and the Royal Exchange Theatre --POMONA--
Orange Tree Theatre presents in association with the National Theatre and the Royal Exchange Theatre
–POMONA–
UPSTAGED RATING: 

Alastair McDowall’s Pomona was first performed in the round at the Orange Tree Theatre in 2014 before transferring to the National Theatre in 2015. Now, it plays in the main stage at Manchester’s Royal Exchange which is a stone throw away from Pomona island where the play is set.

The play opens with a peculiar parka and pants wearing character called Zeppo giving a comically long-winded account of a famous scene from ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark’ to Ollie, a young woman who is searching for her missing twin sister. With a mouthful of chicken nugget Zeppo (Guy Rhys) tells Ollie (Nadia Clifford) that he owns the whole city but doesn’t get involved with anything and offers the scene from Indiana Jones to highlight why some things should just be left well alone.

Under Ned Bennett’s stylish direction, what follows is a series of scenes leading up to the disappearance of Ollie’s sister. This whole narrative is segmented and does not follow a simple linear structure – it’s more like a jigsaw puzzle which the audience have to try and piece together. Exploring themes around sub-culture, gaming and the sinister underworld, Pomona is a brutal and gritty sci-fi thriller.

Georgia Lowe’s stripped set design complements McDowall’s dark story thread which charts flashbacks to Ollie’s sister meeting Fay (Rebecca Humphries) when she gets a job in a brothel; we also encounter Gale ( Rochenda Sandall) a seemingly powerful presence in the criminal underworld and two security guards Charlie (Sam Swann) and Moe (Sean Rigby). Alongside this we meet squeaky and mouse-like Keaton (Sarah Middleton) who meets with Charlie regularly for a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Sam Swann is particularly impressive as oddball Charlie and provides some very funny moments amidst the hopelessness.

Some theatre goers may find Pomona hard going – there is frequent strong language and the characters inhabit a place which some of the audience may prefer not to visit. As the play progresses the outlook for the characters becomes bleaker and the line between fantasy and reality more blurred. There is a sense of confusion and a lot of questions still remain unanswered by the end of the play. Ultimately, Pomona is a powerful, menacing and intelligent piece of work by Alastair McDowall.

-Kristy Stott

Pomona is running at The Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester until Sunday 21 November 2015.