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Roundabout, Summerhall

Island Town
4.0Reviewer's Rating

Island Town is a three-hander set in an unnamed town in the UK, telling the story of Kate – a young woman whose life is turned upside-down by being responsible for killing her two best friends in a car accident. The story is told with Kate having served a prison sentence – returning to the town, and reliving memories of the three years leading up to the accident.

Simon Longman’s script is very much about the stultifying effects of being young in a dead-end town with nothing to do. It presents a picture of a world in which drinking and drug taking are the best available antidote to boredom, finding meaningful employment seems like an impossibility, people are left exposed by cuts to social services, domestic abuse is endemic, and all that gives anyone any hope is the dream of escape.

Stef O’Driscoll’s production is sharp and fast paced. It’s also full of sympathy and affection for its three main characters. Performed in the Roundabout at Summerhall (in a production coproduced by Paines Plough and Theatre Clwyd) it’s stripped back, in-the-round, rough theatre: no set, no props – just actors in an empty space in close proximity to the audience.

My one issue is with the final stretch of the play. Though the whole thing centres around this event – I’m not entirely sure what the car crash brings to Longman’s script other than a dramatic context, and as soon as it becomes the centre of attention things start to lag. The tragedy and Kate’s subsequent remorse ended up, for me at least, overshadowing what was most interesting about Longman’s play and O’Driscoll’s production: the unexpected tenderness and companionship found amidst an environment of hopelessness evident in the friendship between these three kids. I sort of wish there had been enough confidence in this and its ability to engage for Longman to have dispensed with the dramatic conceit, with felt a bit (unlike the rest of the play) predictable and, dare I say it, cheaply dramatic.

Jack Wilkinson, Charlotte O’Leary and Katherine Pearce work well together as a cast – offering three bittersweet and never less than truthful performances. For forty-five minutes this was an electric piece of theatre.

  • Drama
  • By Simon Longman
  • Directed by Stef O'Driscoll
  • Cast includes: Jack Wilkinson, Charlotte O’Leary and Katherine Pearce
  • Roundabout, Summerhall
  • Until 26th August 2018

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Luke Davies is an arts journalist, academic researcher and theatre director who lives and works in London. He also writes for the Times Literary Supplement, Literary Review and Review 31.

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