One hour and ten minute plays are rarely able to reduce entire audiences to tears, and yet Island Town achieves this rare feat wonderfully! Brought to the Fringe by Paines Plough and Theatr Clwyd, Island Town is earth-shatteringly sublime. On a steady diet of cheap cider, best friends Kate, Sam and Pete talk of escaping beyond the horizon that chokes their town. This is the stunning story of three hopeful but intensely bored youths.
Award- winning playwright Simon Longman (2018 George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright) does not disappoint with Island Town. His razor-sharp writing is brilliantly witty creating an utterly exquisite piece with an undeniably poignant social and geographical commentary. Longman’s tender portrayal of youthful, platonic love exists in perfect collision with the bleak reality of the characters’ situations. Most expertly, Island Town evokes discordant emotions, inadvertently raising questions without attempting to answer them.
The three actors, Katherine Pearce (Kate), Charlotte O’Leary (Sam) and Jack Wilkinson (Pete) deliver flawless performances with a palpable collective chemistry. The outstanding performance though, is Pearce’s vigorously layered Kate. We are warned that we might not like her once we know what she has done, yet we cannot help but feel for this volatile, pugnacious teen.
Masked by light-hearted, juvenescent conversations, Kate, Sam and Pete share a maturity beyond their years. Island Town explores the toxicity of social immobility while providing a beautiful demonstration of the power of friendship. One is left pondering the lives the three might have lead if they were born into different families or grew up somewhere else rather than a rural town with a ring-road marking the edge of their existence.
Stef O’Driscoll’s directorial approach is understated and immaculate. Enriched by the work of co-movement directors Jennifer Jackson and Simon Carroll-Jones, the characters seem to effortlessly inhabit a ghostly theatrical sphere. The sound and lighting design from Dominic Kennedy and Peter Small is subtle and powerful, adding to the ethereal nature of the play. With direction, movement and design in such harmony, Island Town becomes an impeccably haunting memory play. Think the raw, regional distant cousin of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. As such, Paines Plough and Theatr Clwyd’s extraordinary Roundabout at Summerhall serves as the perfect space. Seated in the round, the audience are constantly exposed to one another as well as being entirely immersed in the characters’ story. This introspective environment impeccably symbolises cyclical themes in the play and quite literally becomes an island.
This play is flawless. Island Town will repeatedly churn out speechless and aching audiences this Fringe. If you’re in the market for having your heart inexorably torn from your chest, Island Town will do the job.
Aug 1-26th (not 5th, 7th, 11th, 14th, 19th, 21st, 25th)
Photo Credit: Paines Plough and Theatr Clwyd