Tell me about Touched … For the Very First Time in a nutshell.
It’s very funny but sad at the same time. It’s about this 37-year-old woman from Manchester named Lesley, who has a mini-breakdown and takes you on a mad journey through her whole life since the Eighties. Madonna is her hero, her kind of safety net; she doesn’t really identify with anyone else. So Madonna’s music features in the play – songs like “Borderline”, “Vogue” and “Like a Virgin” – and Lesley becomes over-involved with the lyrics and obsessed with the woman behind them. It covers a lot of women’s issues – love, sex, insecurities with men – but I think both men and women will identify with it.
Has Madonna had an impact on your own life?
Madonna has had an amazing impact on women all over the world. What I really loved about her when I was younger was that she wasn’t perfect. I grew up around models, and I’m not interested in women who are too well groomed, whose bodies are too perfect. I always thought it was disappointing that women felt they had to conform to what men think is glamorous or attractive. Then along came Madonna who was really sexy and beautiful in her early videos, chewing her gum, having a funny little laugh or a twitchy eye. And I loved her dancing. I miss that Madonna. But a lot of people, when they get successful, suddenly want to become a super-toned size zero. That’s sad because for me, what makes someone cool and sexy and attractive is their vulnerability.
What would Madonna think of Touched?
I hope she’d like it. I have met her, we have mutual friends, and I’d be happy for her to see the play, but I won’t be inviting her myself. It would more likely be word of mouth that she’d hear about it. If she came, that would be cool. It’s flattering and funny.
What’s kept you away from acting for so long?
I spent the whole of my thirties bringing up my children. They came first so my career had to fit around having babies and breastfeeding. For the last six years since I’ve had Rudy, my youngest, I’ve been concentrating on my fashion business and producing films and I’ve just directed my first short film. That’s been enough for me. I couldn’t have done this play even a year ago, but my children are all at ages now that mean it’s the perfect time. I can still do the school run, have time to rehearse and be in the theatre for the evening.
Are you worried about carrying off a one-woman show?
I first went to see the director, the writer and the producer with the intention of not doing it because it’s terrifying. Then they offered it to me straight away and I didn’t even have time to think, I just said yes. Because I haven’t had much stage experience, I’ve got to work a lot harder. I’ve done a lot of preparation to hold myself right physically, to get my voice working properly again, to get the dialects down – Lesley also narrates for 16 other characters – and to build my confidence. It was a whole MOT of my body, my mind and my emotions.
We’re incredibly supportive of one another. We’ve swapped notes on how to learn lines and he’s shared some of his relaxation methods. He tells me “don’t worry about it, you’re going to be fine”. It’s great to have somebody who understands. Of course we’ll see each other’s plays, though I’m not bothered about going on opening night, and we’ve coordinated our schedules through August when he finishes so we can both be as creative and as comfortable as possible and the kids are happy.
- Sadie Frost was speaking to Terri Paddock
Touched … For the Very First Time opens on 10 February 2008 (previews from 4 February) at Trafalgar Studios 2, where its limited season continues until 14 March. A version of this article appears in the February issue of What’s On Stage magazine, which is out now in participating theatres. Click here to thumb through our online version. And to guarantee your copy of future print editions - and also get all the benefits of our Theatre Club - click here to subscribe now!!