Matt Jamie / Coracle Productions with Rachel Horton / The Culture Vulture in association with Alphabetti Theatre
Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle
It is hard to believe that this is only Arabella Arnott’s second full length play—the first, Overdue (in September 2017) was also produced by Coracle and directed by Matt Jamie, and was, in fact, the first production in Alphabetti’s current theatre—for Pod is a subtly layered piece which would suggest a much longer pedigree.
Four members of a family—Rose (Arabella Arnott), her husband Dan (David Raynor), her sister Daisy (Kylie Ann Ford) and mother Iris (Judi Earl)—are staying in a glamping pod to mark the birthday of Rose and Daisy’s father and Iris’s husband, recently deceased.
It’s a classic situation: a group of people isolated from the rest of the world in the grip of strong emotion, leading to the revelation of secrets, misunderstandings, suppressed emotions, long hidden resentments, imagined slights, jealousies and all the other problems that can fester beneath family life.
In her previous short plays (as well as in Overdue), Arnott has shown herself to be adept at portraying the gradual unfolding of these layers, the uncovering of the suppressed emotions and the movement towards some kind of resolution, and so it is here.
In doing so, she avoids the temptation to fall into the melodramatic (“You mean...?” “Yes!” “Oh my God!”) or to play a tantalising game of cat and mouse with the audience. On the contrary, we are held by the sheer humanity and reality of the characters, helped on no small measure, I have to say, by the talents of an excellent cast, the sensitivity of Matt Jamie’s direction and an impressively realistic set by Alison Ashton.
I was prevented by health problems from seeing the production live, so I am really glad that Coracle and Alphabetti have made it possible for me and others like me, as well as audiences from elsewhere in the country, to enjoy an excellent play, beautifully performed. Thank you!
Originally intended to be performed in May last year but prevented from doing so by the pandemic, Pod ran at Alphabetti Theatre from 31 August until 18 September 2021 to socially distanced audiences and now it is available online for a further week. Like the Live performances, the online version, which was filmed in the empty theatre, is Pay What You Feel.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan