Writer & Director: Vicky Jones
Reviewer: Nicola Macdonald
Touch opens to a lot of expectation.
Creator Vicky Jones’ previous outing at Soho Theatre was as Director to her collaborator and friend Phoebe Waller-Bridge in the hit comedy Fleabag, which went on to become an internationally acclaimed television series.
It’s no surprise, then, that a huge amount of excitement is surrounding Touch, which was written and directed by Jones and which shares several of Fleabag’s defining elements.
Both plays are frank, open and gloriously vulgar when it comes to women’s sexuality, (even Dee, Touch‘s central character, at one point pauses to exclaim, “what you just said – that is horrible”) and both follow a thirty-something woman embarking on an unconventional journey of self-discovery.
Touch, however, is very much its own beast; quickly and confidently establishing a world populated with instantly recognisable and deeply human characters.
The story follows Amy Morgan’s Dee, who has recently moved to London from Swansea for a temporary job and is endeavouring to make friends, seek out new experiences and attempt to reinvent herself. A heavy drinking, bill-avoiding 30-something, Dee is reaching a point where she has to decide, one way or the other, which direction her life is heading.
Amid this journey of self-discovery she meets, among others, gym buddy Vera (Naana Agyei-Ampadu), new boyfriend Eddie (James Marlowe) and the somewhat mysterious Miles (James Clyde). Each is arguably a type, some are even arguably stereotypes, but there are always narrative surprises and plot twists which serve to undermine the audience’s preconceived notion of how each character will behave.
Dee is the common factor linking each character, so it’s fitting that much of the action of the play takes place in her tiny, extravagantly messy London bedsit.
Set designer ULTZ has created a wonderfully lived-in set, with every surface in Dee’s tiny studio flat covered with some combination of books, wine classes, clothes, pans and dirty dishes. From the unmade bed to the half-eaten tube of Pringles conveniently placed on the bedside table, it’s the small humorous details that give the set such character.
The small, slightly claustrophobic set is juxtaposed with the sheer breadth of the topics covered in Touch, which finds time in its relatively short 90 minutes to debate race, immigration, sexuality, gender, politics, feminism, relationships and friendships with humour, wit and frankness.
While this can occasionally feel ever so slightly crowbarred in, the naturalistic dialogue and confident performances go a long way to making these discussions both real and relevant.
Touch is a confident return to Soho Theatre for Vicky Jones. It’s a tightly scripted and performed play that’s unafraid to tackle controversial subjects, whether vulgar or cultural. Nestled among its big ideas are small touches and moments that also manage to give the play real heart, as well as a confident and witty comedic sensibility.
After the success of Fleabag, Touch will no doubt be one of Soho Theatre’s hot tickets this summer but make no mistake, it can more than stand on its own two feet.
Runs until 26 August 2017 | Image: Elliott Franks