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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The One
Soho Theatre  Spring 2014

A couple incessantly bicker and battle, wounding each other physically, mentally and emotionally in a way that would be horrible to watch were it not so perversely fascinating. 

He is vicious, violent, and demanding; she is sly, passive-aggressive and manipulative. The only time in a drink-fuelled evening that they're not at each other is when a vulnerable third person enters and, smelling blood, they combine forces to attack her. 

You've probably spotted by now that the shadows of Albee's Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf and Strindberg's Dance Of Death hover very visibly over Vicky Jones's new play. But, while never trying to hide her inspirations, Jones charts out a new territory of her own that makes The One an engrossing, if depressing, addition to the genre. 

Unlike Albee, who was at great pains to uncover the real love and therefore hope for a future underlying his couple's sparring, Jones makes us wonder if there is anything binding hers but their jumble of sadism and masochism. 

Unlike Strindberg's couple, who have hated each other for so long that their fighting has the weariness of almost empty ritual, Jones's pair are young enough for their passions and pains to be sharp, and new enough at this game that they're still trying out new weapons and there is the very real chance that one or the other will go too far. 

So The One has the feeling of being more dangerous than its predecessors, not just for its characters but for the audience, who may be led into psychological byways, particularly those of our capacity for harming those we know best, that we'd rather not have to consider. 

. . . Which is another way of saying that, although frequently very witty, this is a very dark play, not for those who prefer to think nice things about their fellow human beings. But it says what it says with skill and power all the more impressive because it is Vicky Jones's first play. 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Rufus Wright inhabit their characters with courage and conviction, taking us deep enough that we not only believe in both their viciousness as attackers and pain as victims, but accept both aspects as parts of the same persons. 

Lu Corfield serves the play generously in the somewhat thankless Nick-and-Honey role of the outsider, and director Steve Marmion deserves praise for helping his actors reach and sustain a high level of passion and vulnerability from start to finish.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - The One - Soho Theatre 2014

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