Facing a multitude of environments, Cockpit Theatre’s tier seating encases the thrust stage. Lights rise upon hints of a bedroom; a frameless mattress surrounded by art and flowers. Indications of a dining room, bar and loading bay form the other directions.
Pomegranate Season examines the aftermath to Cora’s (Victoria Cano) surrounding relationships and personal sexuality following a non-consensual experience with her best friend, Dan (Ben MacKenzie). Questions surround the definition of the experience as rape and form the core of the piece.
Moving chronologically, Cano’s text is formulaic. Within the first ten minutes, the remaining plot is easily deduced. Despite this, Cano fleshes out individual characters with distinct voices that develop over the 90-minute run time, individually and in relation to each other. The delivery across the stage rarely signals an embodied truthfulness, instead highlighting a detachment between body and voice. In tandem with a tendency to overplay comedy, the piece ends never really lifting beyond the plateau it reaches in minutes.
Scarcely littered throughout are glimpses of creative invention, particularly the use of Siri as a device to drive the plot without being overtly expositional and declamatory. Frustratingly, a similar approach (using a call to a helpline) later fails in its use of comedy that seemingly cheapens the discussion the play hopes to hold.
A lack of commitment and clarity confuses the tone of the production – the intertwining of comedy throughout nullifies the more truthful and bare elements, without making a real impact. Marylynne Anderson-Cooper’s direction stages the text literally, resulting in a general production that doesn’t provide much beyond the page. Oddly chosen music does little to connect with the piece beyond reiterating Cora’s age. There is no apparent, or easily accessible, thematic relevance to the music, that once again muddies the tone further.
Throughout, it feels as if the piece is safeguarding its subject of discussion; doing so at a distance that neither explores the contents viscerally, nor interrogates them from a specific angle. Even though Cano’s writing provides perspectives in varying degrees of relation to Cora, it does so at the sacrifice of depth. Covering all bases means spending sparse time at each. This indecisiveness results in Pomegranate Season failing to fully portray the effects of the experience it is aiming to interrogate. Whilst it is important to keep the conversation surrounding sexual assault active, this production fails to hold the gravity of the subject, and therefore, relevance.
Pomegranate Season played the Cockpit Theatre as part of the Camden Fringe Festival until 22 August. For further information, click here.
Photo: Debra Anderson