Touch, Soho Theatre

by guest critic Gregory Forrest

The bed is the first thing we see. The mess is the second. By the end of the evening, we see just how messy one bed can get. Written and directed by Vicky Jones, winner of the 2013 Verity Bargate Award and co-artistic director of DryWrite, Touch is an acerbic slice of contemporary womanhood, romance, and urban isolation.

And it’s a hoot, start to finish. From strip teases to squatting in the shower via so. much. wine. We follow the cheap sex and extortionate rents of thirty-three-year-old Dee, living in her shoebox flat. Lovers fall like layers on the sheets. They accumulate like sweat, because you know nothing’s ever washed in that place. Since directing Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag to international acclaim, there has been pressure on Jones to deliver another comic smash. Thankfully, Touch truly showcases her talents as a brave and honest voice in theatre. A writer capable of wry observation, restraint, and lines that can knock you flat. A director capable of energising her actors, focusing the audience’s attention, and provoking urgent conversations about the world we live in. 

Structurally, the piece does make some missteps. Jumping between different sexual or romantic encounters means that, though each scene is electric line by line, fairly little overall plot emerges. However, with textured characterisation at its heart, Touch is always emotionally vibrant and brimming with wit. Dee struggles to reconcile her obvious intelligence with some less than intelligent choices (or so she is repeatedly told by patriarchal forces), and this is the friction the evening pivots upon.

A marvellous performance by Amy Morgan, complete with subdued side eye and the briefest of hesitations, gives both Dee and the play their necessary humanity. This is not simply a sex play. This is a politics play. State of the nation. State of you. It interrogates the ongoing difficulty of being the best feminist possible when a) so many men are so shit, b) you want to have sex with men, and c) some beating part of you still wants to fall in love with a man. Blame Disney or dad for that.

After the show, after the applause, I slinked off to a meaningless hookup of my own. The sex was great. The socio-cultural politics of it questionable. I lay on sweaty sheets at two in the morning thinking, fuck. Vicky got it spot on.

Touch runs through 26 August.

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