This is a place where the buses aren’t running anymore. There’s no fire station. And there’s no jobs. Three teenagers, Kate, Sam and Pete (Katherine Pearce, Charlotte O’Leary and Jack Wilkinson) have nothing to do but hang around all day and drink cider in the park. Pete wants to have sex; he just doesn’t have anyone to have it with. Sam’s having some issues with her dad back at home. Kate just wants to drive away and escape this isolated town surrounded by nothing but fields. Stef O’Driscoll directs a tight and tense production of Simon Longman’s text.
We’re told from the start that Kate is going to tell us something, and we’re not going to like her once she does. What seems odd however is that it takes us until nearly the end of the play to find out what’s happened, and the whole play as a build up to that point sort of circles itself a little bit. I think, to some extent, this is sort of the point; the ambiguities of the time-frame which allows the play to end where it starts. But Kate’s feeling of entrapment in a never-ending loop seems like an odd sci-fi slant on a play that doesn’t really call for it.
We hear of characters wanting to reach beyond the horizon, about hopes for the future with dreams of having a family. However, some of these aspirations are repeated scene after scene, dragging out the story arc for longer that it probably needs. Additionally, the characters don’t always feel individual; their voices often sound similar enough that lines could be re-allocated at random and no one would notice.
Some of the movement in between scenes is a little forced; the actor dramatically exhales at the end of each scene and move in a sort of stylised motion to a new position on the stage, before the lights come up for them to continue. The moment of the punch, however, is cleverly executed. The stage punch can look tacky at the best of times, however the distance between the actors during this moment, accompanied by a crucial flash of bright light, gives this action a really significant impact.
All three actors give superb performances, but Pearce’s is on a whole other level. At times, she’s fierce and violent. She shouts, though it never sounds screechy; she’s always in constant control. When she returns after 11 years away, she looks around and her face is pale; her eyes are completely empty. We never lose concentration; we’re always absorbed by the chemistry of these relationships.
There is so much to love about this production, but at the moment it feels like it’s still in its early stages, like it’s testing ideas of time and space and hasn’t quite settled on firm conclusions yet. What we’re left with is a lot of build-up which, though somewhat compelling, probably could do with getting to the fallout of the main event a little quicker. Nonetheless, it’s an emotional look into the qualities of teenage friendship, when there’s nothing to do and overwhelming desire for escape.
Island Town is playing Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 26 August 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.
Photo: Ganesha Lockhart