As you wait for POT to begin, a mist hangs in the air and around the brown-tinged set. This flat has patched up floors, a faded sofa, a grimy radiator and clutter in the form of crushed beer cans. It’s the epitome of a dive and it’s where writer Ambreen Razia sets this far-reaching piece.
Bookended by poetry, this piece may be modern in topic but has a touch of the classical. A blood-soaked drug dealer Josh – played by a viscerally energetic Wahab Sheikh – starts by setting this scene in verse, telling us that he “did what he had to do”, introducing not only the themes, but the mythical and mystical elements which come to dominate throughout the rest of the play.
It’s a dramatic start that foreshadows the revelations that are to come. But Josh is not the centre of this piece. It’s his “girl” Louisa, played by a convincing, if sometimes a little reticent, Sophia Leonie who wakes up to find herself locked in this flat with a boy she doesn’t recognise, Miles, played by a wide-eyed, yet emotionally deep Gamba Cole.
The play focuses on 17-year-old Louisa and unravels her young but eventful life to date. From the actions that she has taken to fit in and be loved, and the regrets that they have brought about, POT is clever, modern and yet also timeless.
The set is the perfect backdrop, not only for its realism, but its invention. The grill that hangs above the stage – a shard of wire that recalls violence and imprisonment – is a simple yet very effective addition to the scene.
POT talks about lucid dreaming and touches upon spirituality, but it is in reality that it is most successful. The events of Louisa’s life, and the horrible things that she has done, are shocking, but also don’t feel too far-fetched in this world and capital city that the audience find themselves in. But what also is real is Louisa’s desire to change her actions and to start again, after slipping into this life.
As the play ends in verse, and Cole describes life on the estate as the “devil’s playground”, it feels a little dreamlike, but more importantly and impressively, it feels like POT isn’t too far from the truth.
POT is playing Stratford Circus Arts Centre until 26 October. For more information and tickets, click here.