The Edinburgh Fringe exists as a kind of suspended adolescence allowing creatives to live the experience of their art being the most important thing in the world. Though the financial pressures are considerable and ever-present, the fact that a whole town turns itself over to student productions, rising star stand-ups and experiemental theatre gives artists an opportunity to feel as if the world exists for them. A microcosm of this feeling at its most beautiful and heartbreaking can be found in Greenside on Nicholson Street, as Torch Town takes the smouldering embers of childhood hopefulness and ignites them.
This show is exactly what the Edinburgh Fringe needs.
One of the many aforementioned student productions at the Fringe, Torch Town is the story of two young children who escape the rapidly changing world around them and take shelter around a cardboard town they've built for themselves. Through a series of touching and emotive vignettes, the two performers grow up and evolve with each other as the audience are drawn effortlessly into their lives, investing us in their troubled stories. In many ways it plays on familiar archetypes, but it does so with an overwhelming beauty and skill. Whether battling dragons or learning to waltz, the audience are never less than fully invested in the imagination of the two young characters.
Every person involved in making this show contributes to its undoubted success. The most obvious talent is onstage, as Tom Garrett and Lucy Sprosen invest in their characters with a haunting amount of realism. Sprosen spans the emotional gamut from bashful through courageous to bold, never losing grip of the heart of her character. Garrett is given less emotional range to play with but instead embodies his character's stumbling, awkward physicality with every movement. Behind the scenes the work is just as strong. Credited as both director and designer, Megan Farquhar does better work than almost anyone else on the Fringe transforming an innocuous box room into a world of its own. Despite never once involving the audience, Torch Town is one of the most immersive shows at the Fringe.
Mark Fenton's script does play on familiar tropes, but it does so in a way that wilfuly highlights them and uses them as a launch pad to look into something deeper. Clearly a writer with a strong emotional connection to his work, the script for Torch Town holds no sentimentality back without feeling the need to undercut it, displaying a level of maturity rarely seen in a student work. The only criticism of the show is that despite some fantastic sound design, the volume of both the performers and the tech needs to be turned down slightly to accomodate the room, as though effectively overwhelming when necessary it can occasionally be troublingly loud. In every other way though, this show is exactly what the Edinburgh Fringe needs. A grassroots production, with the clear emotional investment of its performers that translates perfectly into a powerful emotional experience for the audience. Allow yourself an hour away from the cold cynicism of adulthood and escape with Tiny Change Theatre into Torch Town. You won't be disappointed.