Dee is a 33 year old Swansea girl recently arrived in London after splitting up with her long-term boyfriend and keen to re-invent herself. She has a job (maternity cover in a marketing company) and a shoebox flat that is so cluttered and squalid that one visitor asks if she dreads coming home. She’s obliged to piss in the shower because the toilet is broken and shit at the gym. The chaos is a mirror of her mind and her finances. She’s funny and up for anything but how can she change her life if she doesn’t know what she really wants?
Vicky Jones’s new comedy is the latest venture by DryWrite, the company which she runs with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and it feels like a successor-in-spirit to the latter’s Fleabag, the stage hit turned Bafta-winning TV sitcom about a twenty-something struggling to the fill the void of grief with meaningless sex. Filthily funny and stingingly perceptive, Touch is like a hard-core variant of Bridget Jones – everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about what life is like for a single woman in her thirties during an era in which dating apps may be creating as many problems as they solve by seeming to proffer an endless smorgasbord of polymorphous opportunities.
Ultz’s set rotates as the play shows us Dee going through a succession of lovers and brief flings – starting with James Marlowe’s Eddie, a strait-laced control-freak who is sublimely unconscious of his conceit and offensiveness in supposing that, because of the misfortune of being a woman, Vera (Naana Agyei-Ampadu), Dee’s buddy from the gym whom she periodically beds, can’t possibly be a genuine threat on the sexual or romantic front. Dee subscribes to feminism but is awkwardly aware that this is hard to reconcile with her fantasies about being spanked by the seedy fetishist (James Clyde) she’s picked up on a website or with the fact that she summons Sam, her carpet-fitter ex (Matthew Aubrey) all the way from Wales to fix her loo.
Amy Morgan (of Mr Selfridge fame) is wonderfully likeable as Dee, bringing out her warmth, unflagging sense of the ridiculous and blunt, combative humour. “Women of your age staring into the abyss…” taunts Paddy (excellent Edward Bluemel), the posh-boy intern from work with the huge penis (“I know so many people who deserve it more than you,” objects Dee). Mocking the fact that they are from different generations, he suggests that they can play-act “long-term boyfriends and girlfriends if it gets you going” – “We’ll have to put a wash on by Monday” – but he winds up stage-managed by her into an electric clothes-swapping dance during which his drug-fuelled auto-erotic abandon proves to be a definite turn-off.
Morgan’s production is performed with terrific assurance and expertly communicates the ambivalence that is the play’s key strength. For, though some of the characters sit in preachy judgement of her lifestyle, Touch confines itself to furrowing a sceptical brow and never pretends that her choices (babies, same-sex partnership?) are not fraught with difficulty. The creators of this no-holds-barred work may not regard it as a compliment but I’d say that there’s a fundamental good nature here that draws you to to the piece.