A secret location, Selly Oak, Birmingham, Friday 31st May, 2019
As a reviewer I get invited to all kinds of shows but this was my first in someone’s living room. Tiny Change Theatre Company is currently previewing a new play prior to a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. Written by Mark Fenton, who co-directs with Megan Farquhar, Torch Town is the story of two runaway children, holed up in a house, each of them escaping problems at home. They build a city out of cardboard boxes, and festoon it with fairy lights, a place where they can make the rules as they see fit.
Alice (Lara Sprosen) is bossy, almost a proto-feminist in her assertions that girls are better (they write more neatly), brimming with the earnest absolutes of a childish worldview that sees things as black or white. Beneath the bossiness lies fear and vulnerability and creativity infused with innocence. With her is Peter (Tom Garrett), a troubled young lad who can match Alice in terms of imagination and innocence. Both actors give captivating portrayals in highly detailed performances: Alice daring to say ‘fuck’ for the first time, Peter’s look of surprise when he manages to whistle – we see beyond the grown-up bodies of the actors to the children they are playing, bringing to my mind Dennis Potter’s Blue Remembered Hills. And there’s plenty of playing; the only time I feel this intimate space may be too small is when the kids are galumphing around, battling dragons in space or flying to the moon.
The innocence of the characters gives rise to much of the humour of the piece as they attempt to navigate the choppy waters of their friendship. There is pathos and poignancy, and some powerful moments – Alice’s fears when she’s left alone, and Peter’s startling monologue when memories swamp him and he has a breakdown. Tom Garrett is superb. Heart-breaking, in fact. The pacing of these scenes is handled perfectly, contrasting with the interludes when the children play.
The directors turn the constraints of the production to their advantage, using handheld torches, table lamps and a projector to transform the stripped-bare domestic setting into a performance space that serves the story.
The writing is rich, allowing for intensity and levity from the players – and there’s a coda, set years later, that packs a punch. An engaging hour of vibrant and refreshing drama, Torch Town shows that Tiny Change Theatre is an excellent young company with great potential.
I loved it.