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Torch review at Underbelly, Edinburgh – ‘meandering but charismatic’

Jess Mabel Jones in Torch. Photo Richard Lakos Jess Mabel Jones in Torch. Photo Richard Lakos
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Jess Mabel Jones shines bright in a dark room. She glows. As Jess Thom’s collaborator in Backstage in Biscuit Land, she was an essential part of that show’s considerable charm, and she knows how to own a stage, but the material she’s working with here isn’t the strongest.

This is one of two shows by Phoebe Eclair-Powell at this year’s fringe. The other is the underwhelming Epic Love and Pop Songs. Neither play feels as tight as it might. Set in a nightclub toilet, Torch is a slightly meandering account of a woman’s various relationships, with men, with her body, with food and booze, with the idea that she might one day be a mother.

Jessica Edwards’ production feels, in part, like a gig. Lights blaze at the sides of the stage, which is framed with black balloons, as Jones, liquid-legged and glitter-lipped, grabs the microphone and sings snatches of Smells Like Teen Spirit and The Gossip.

As in Epic Love, there are some affecting sections of writing, particularly when the protagonist describes her anxieties about eating, but this is mixed in with a lot of cliche, a lot of lines that feel a bit trite. Jones holds it altogether though, with charisma and a wink of her silver-lined eyes.

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Meandering monologue-with-songs enlivened by a charismatic performance