A plump girl from Manchester and the world’s biggest pop star leading parallel lives. That is the premise of Zoe Lewis’ one-woman play, and the one woman in question happens to be Sadie Frost, making her return to the stage after a more than 20-year absence, during which time she's become tabloid fodder, raised four children, married and divorced twice, and appeared in films including Dracula and The Krays. Hardly the plump fourteen year-old girl that Zoe Lewis’ play opens with.
Raised by a socialist mother and her boyfriend, Lesley is a down-to-earth sort of a girl who talks us through her life, her sexual exploits, or lack of them, and her lack of regard for her friend Tracy. Bored of her humdrum life she turns to pop queen Madonna as a guiding light after seeing the music video for "Like a Virgin". As the play progresses, Lesley grows up, leaving Manchester and moving first to London and then to New York, all the while keeping a firm eye on the Queen of pop and her rollercoaster lifestyle.
It seems obvious to point out that Frost is nothing like the plump fourteen-year old Madonna fan (though physically she fits the bill better as the middle-aged career woman with a designer wardrobe). But Zoe Lewis was obviously aware that no woman, of any age or physique, could match the plethora of Lesleys that we are given over the course of the play, and despite the build up, this is not a play about Madonna, or even about a teenage girl - Touched is a simple, personal diary of a woman, her life, and her preoccupations.
Despite the physical mismatch Frost is compelling. Her Manchester accent drawls a little, and when she impersonates her verbally challenged best friend she is in danger of falling into an Eliza Doolittle impression, but she ranges across a selection of characterisations and accents in a generally accomplished and jovial manner.
Colin Richmond’s set design does much to help us make a considerable leap of faith that leaves behind both our tabloid image of Frost and her rather more pressing physical incongruity, transporting us into a fairy light strewn, Madonna-enshrined bedroom that sets the scene for Lesley’s confessions, while Jamie Bradley’s movement direction links the interludes in a sort of disco dream, with Lesley’s bedroom versions of Madonna’s signature dance moves.
This being Frost’s second only stage appearance there has to be some credit for the brave casting choice. Appearing in a one-woman play would be terrifying enough, but doing so in such an intimate venue, dressed in eighties lycra and covering a range of accents that would make Gwyneth Paltrow shudder, is a plunge into the abyss that is unprecedented, and although, sadly, this play simmers rather than sizzles, it is a plunge that's generally well conducted.