At least it doesn’t do things by halves, and at a time when even comedians have moderated and self-censored their acts for fear of rebuttals and potential lawsuits, in some ways the sheer bluntness in The One could be seen as refreshing. I doubt it’s meant to be, though, in its exploration of a peculiar relationship between Jo (Tuppence Middleton) and Harry (John Hopkins). In all the sarcasm and trading of personal remarks, it can be hard to tell when they are genuinely in a dispute, or otherwise engaging in dark banter. It’s not always comfortable viewing, especially when Kerry (Julia Sandford), a long-standing friend of the pair, pays them a visit: there’s been a dispute between her and her partner and things may or may not have turned ugly.
There is much food for thought in the acerbic dialogue. Kerry thinks she may have been raped (in which case why is she talking to her friends instead of (or in addition to) the police?), while in Jo’s mind, consent was not explicitly withdrawn. Then again, as Kerry points out, Bradley, her off-stage partner, has been in a relationship with her for long enough that words should not be necessary.
This, in turn, made me ponder how that line of argument would stand under cross-examination in a court. The other main off-stage character, Jo’s sister, is on the verge of going into labour – a seemingly superfluous addition to the storyline until the stark difference becomes clear between her experience of love and sexual relations, compared to what Harry and Jo’s topsy-turvy, all-over-the-place home life comprises.
Still, each to their own and all that. The production is absorbing enough not to create a distancing effect, such that audible gasps could periodically be heard from the audience whenever anybody said anything rather below the belt. An example: Kerry, sensing she should probably go, hurries out into the street to hail a black cab – nothing wrong with that. But that action was a response to the suggestion from Jo that Kerry should get a dodgy minicab – a certain firm is name-dropped – in order to get “proper [sic] raped”. Oof.
The Phantom of the Opera is continuously referenced, or at least one song from it is, ‘The Music of the Night’. At the risk of sounding picky, it’s almost a pity the show doesn’t close out with the final lyric from Phantom, “You alone, can make my song take flight / It’s over now, the music of the night!” Nonetheless, the power play between the pair is riveting to watch, and it’s difficult not to draw comparisons between this duo and George and Martha in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
As in that other play, a range of emotions are poured out, which may not be pleasant, but make for good theatre. Some of the dialogue is highly naturalistic, with Harry and Jo cutting one another off. The varying vulnerability in all three characters is captured through nuanced performances, with the main couple keeping one another (and the audience guessing) right up to the very end. An intriguing and sophisticated production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Following on from last summer’s smash-hit Touch, Vicky Jones returns with her award-winning debut play. Harry and Jo are up all night drawing the battle lines of their relationship with sex, violence and Wotsits. A viciously funny and daring play, The One invites you into the world of a couple trapped in a destructive and violent cycle of love and lust.
Vicky Jones’ ‘astounding and astonishing’ (Telegraph) debut won the Verity Bargate Award in 2013. Back at Soho Theatre this summer for a limited run, directed by Soho Theatre’s Artistic Director Steve Marmion and starring Tuppence Middleton (War and Peace and Netflix’s Sense8) and John Hopkins (Poldark and Midsomer Murders).
Thu 5 Jul – Sat 25 Aug 2018
21 Dean Street, London, W1D 3NE