Why do people flock to the metropolis? After all, everyone has known since the days of Dick Whittington, that the streets aren’t paved with gold and lots of people I meet, that have moved to London, simply complain and say how wonderful their home town was. But still they come, and one such newcomer to the bright lights is the heroine of Vicky Jones’ play Touch at Soho Theatre.
Swansea girl Dee (Amy Morgan) is doing okay for herself. She has come to London with a job – well maternity cover in a marketing company – and somewhere to live – an estate agent would say a compact and bijou studio apartment, normal people would call it a really tiny bedsit. Having split up with her long-term boyfriend Sam (Matthew Aubrey), Dee is ready to jump into London Life. Through the magic of Tinder© she meets Eddie (James Marlowe), a very sensible chap who likes fine wine and being in control of life. At the gym, Dee meets Vera (Naana Agyei-Ampadu) a tall, powerful woman who may not be as confident as she seems. At work, Dee has some fine eye candy in the shape of attractive young intern Paddy (Edward Bluemel) who seems to have taken a shine to her. And then, there is Miles (James Clyde), an older man who Dee wants to help her explore some of her darker fantasies. With so much to choose from and everything on her door-step, Dee should be extremely happy but is she, or are those self-help books on her shelf a cry for assistance?
First things first, when you enter the theatre you get to see one of the best sets I’ve seen for a long while. A bedsit, complete with toilet, shower, bed, Freeview television, wardrobe, fridge, etc, etc, etc sits there in front of you. And it is perfect in every way. As the play progresses, the set rotates, so gets to be seen from every angle. The shower works, the microwave comes on, the fridge has a light in it. Seriously, if the Soho Theatre wanted to rent the place out overnight, they probably could – excellent work by ULTZ. This brings me to a minor problem with the costumes, and this is me at my most pedantic. Whilst I have no problem with a good looking chap stripping down to his boxers, I was surprised that a character like Paddy was wearing Topman. Given the way the character was written, he struck me as much more of a CK or AC man and the ‘downmarket’ boxers felt out of place on him. However, a minor point and the rest of the costumes were really great – especially those worn by Vera, which really seemed to add to her character beautifully.
So, loved the set and costumes, how about the writing? Well, Vicky Jones has written a really interesting script which I suppose could be described as Bridget Jones without the innocence. Dee is a fascinating character who is almost a stereotype of a left-leaning young lady but, she is saved from this by her willingness to question not only those around her but herself. I honestly didn’t expect to like Dee at the start but by the end of the 90 minutes I spent in her company, I really did care about the character and was crossing my fingers hoping she would make the right decision. Of course, my reaction to her was not only due to the writing but also Amy Morgan’s acting which really brought Dee alive. Amy was a pleasure to watch as she took Dee through everything from really bad flirting to totally inebriated to becoming an empowered individual. On the whole, the people in Dee’s life worked well, although I wasn’t convinced that Eddie would have lasted as long as he did. I’m not sure why but I didn’t really feel much chemistry between the two characters during their scenes. Unlike the fantastic relationships between Dee and Paddy and Dee with Vera. These two couplings really did seem to work well. Dee and Miles were an odd one for me in terms of writing. I’m not really sure what their story added, although I thought their banter together was excellent and James Clyde’s measured performance as Miles was excellent.
Overall then, Touch surprised me in many ways and all of them pleasurable. Whilst I didn’t think every relationship worked, I could imagine Dee – or some other wide-eyed person coming to the big city – falling into them easily enough. I loved the set and the writing had me laughing, and drawing breath in shock in equal measure. This is a very down to earth production with language more suited to the East End than South Kensington but it really works well and any show that can turn “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” into a mantra for life is doing a really good job. As a final note, buy the play text. I loved the fact that the stage directions are written in the same very down to earth way as the lines.
Review by Terry Eastham
From the creators of the international cult hit Fleabag
Dee’s sexual escapades are messy and temporary – just like her shoe box London flat.
New to the city and in a stop-gap job, Dee has the chance to reinvent herself. But how can you change your life when you don’t know what you want?
Following the international success of Fleabag and the Verity Bargate Award-winning play The One, Soho Theatre and DryWrite reunite with Touch, a shamelessly funny and brutally honest play about sex, connection and control.
Running Time: Approx 90mins
Director – Vicky Jones
Set and Costume Designer – Ultz
Lighting Designer – Richard Howell
Sound Designer – Isobel Waller-Bridge
Costume Supervisor – Claire Wardroper
Casting Director – Nadine Rennie CDG
CAST: Naana Agyei-Ampadu, Matthew Aubrey, Edward Bluemel, James Clyde, James Marlowe, Amy Morgan
Thu 6 July – Sat 26 Aug 2017, evenings 7.15pm, matinees 3pm