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Island Town review at Roundabout, Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘moving three-hander about small-town life’

Katherine Pearce, Jack Wilkinson and Charlotte O'Leary in Island Town. Photo: Rebecca Need-Menear Katherine Pearce, Jack Wilkinson and Charlotte O'Leary in Island Town. Photo: Rebecca Need-Menear

There’s not a lot to do in the town where Kate, Sam and Pete live. Sam’s dad drinks, Kate’s dad is sick; Pete just wants to be a dad – if only he could find a girl to go out with him.

Simon Longman’s play – one of three playing in rep at the Roundabout – is a portrait of a small town as a prison. There’s little in the way of hope here. Austerity has ground everyone down. Stef O’Driscoll’s production makes the most of the space’s potential for claustrophobia. It’s an exposing space – a bare circular stage, no props – and the cast make the most of this. Charlotte O’Leary and Jack Wilkinson are versatile, their youthful energy slowly fading as life takes its toll on the characters, but Katherine Pearce’s raw, bruised performance as Kate, increasingly desperate to escape, to make for the ring road and never look back, is the heart of the production.

Longman is a writer on the rise and with this play he takes a potentially bleak subject and fills it with unexpected shards of humour – Pete’s wanking habit, an unfortunate incident with a goldfish. The dramatic incident on which the plot hinges feels almost too brutal, too cruel, but there’s beauty in Longman’s cyclical play, circles within circles.

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Simon Longman’s moving three-hander about the claustrophobia and hopelessness of broken small-town life