Torch, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

We’re in a club toilet. Not a nice one, either  – there’s no loo roll, lipstick and graffiti pepper the cubicle walls and door. Jess Mabel Jones is an unnamed woman out with a friend, but after a lot of vodka and some coke, she feels self-conscious, past it and wants to hide. Reflecting on the life choices that brought her to this newly-single moment of remorse, she chronicles past lovers, committed relationships, eating disorders, panic attacks, and youthful exploits. Whilst longing for her youthful, perkier self with thinner legs and a tighter arse, she manages to celebrate the woman she has grown up to be in all of her flawed glory. Jones is an absolute firecracker of a performer who slams herself around a robust script baring lived female experience in all its rawness.

Phoebe-Éclair Powell’s text is an extended monologue of fragmented experiences and memories punctuated with pop songs. It doesn’t shy away from visceral topics, though the transitions from text to music are abrupt with little lead-in. The character she paints alternates between vulnerable and endearing, and ferociously bold. She is an everywoman with experiences that most women can relate to on some level and reminds us that despite going through moments of absolute despair and self-loathing, women are incredible.

It’s not just about girl power, though. The character’s anecdotes are funny, moving and compelling stories that are accessible to any human that has grown up, had sex, been in a relationship or felt they don’t meet society’s expectations. She is haunted by the woman she hasn’t become and simultaneously unapologetic about her.

Director Jessica Edwards incorporates plenty of movement, though some seems gratuitous it prevents the performance from becoming static. Amelia Jane Hankin’s set is both industrial, messy and glittery, an outward expression of the character’s spirit.

Jones’ performance is what makes this production worth seeing. She has a stunning voice, emotional vulnerability, and electric charisma. The songs she covers become the millennial generation’s torch songs as she delivers them with a power and depth. She rallies the audience to her side despite behaviour that could be viewed disapprovingly by more conservative audience members because her commitment and connection to the script is as truthful as it possibly can be. Torch is not one to miss.

Torch runs through 28th August.

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