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The Theatreguide.London Review

Soho Theatre  Summer 2017

Disguised as a satirical rom-com, Vicky Jones's new play is actually a sad little portrait of a modern woman's empty life. 

While I'm not always sure Jones intends it to be quite as sad as it is, there is no doubt that she wants what appears to be a bonbon to have a surprisingly tart aftertaste. 

Dee (Amy Morgan) is thirty-three, recently moved to London from Wales. She has a temporary job, lives in a dump of a studio flat, makes do with broken plumbing and resident vermin, and is generally in-transit in her life. 

She more-or-less has a boyfriend, or at least a guy who has a key to her flat, but is also seeing two other men and one woman, while keeping in touch with her ex back in Cardiff. 

The play's publicity suggests that Dee is belatedly getting around to inventing herself, but the character is not allowed to show any deliberateness in her almost passive meandering through things. 

She dallies with romance, lesbianism, S&M, and having a toyboy, none of it with any conviction or seriousness except perhaps to some of those she dallies with. 

She generally dallies with life, and she's not getting any younger. 

In many ways Touch is a companion piece to Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag, which Vicky Jones directed a couple of years back. 

There a twenty-something woman was caught just at the moment when she began to realize she wasn't an irresponsible student any more and it was time to start thinking of herself as a grown-up. 

Jones's Dee is a decade older and still hasn't made that discovery, and that's where the inescapably sad tinge to her story lies. 

But it is because Jones, both as writer and director, doesn't allow Dee even a shadow of self-awareness that I wonder how aware she, the playwright-director, is of how very dark her portrait is. 

As Dee, Amy Morgan has been directed to be an absolute blank and to remain unchanged by experience, so that the rare moments of joy, despair or panic aren't real, but just more dallying. 

Naana Agyei-Ampadu as the lesbian and Matthew Aubrey as the Welsh ex are able to show that some of those Dee encounters can and do feel real emotions, but James Marlowe, James Clyde and Edward Bluemel play their characters as almost as untouched by life as hers. 

Is Vicky Jones indicting a whole generation or just one woman? Is she indicting or pitying or just observing coolly? As effectively as it hints at insights and judgements,Touch can feel just one more rewrite away from fully capturing and communicating the playwright's vision.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -  Touch - Soho Theatre 2017

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