Review: Touch (Soho Theatre)

Vicky Jones, one half of the team behind ”Fleabag”, has created a slatternly character for the Tinder generation

Touch, starring
Touch, with Amy Morgan as Dee
(© Soho Theatre)

Mr Selfridge star Amy Morgan plays Dee, a 33-year-old Swansea lass, newly-single and new to London. Her shoebox flat is a shithole. Her fridge doubles up as a bedside table; her stuff lives in laundry bags crammed into the corner. Her desk is dotted with empties, her bin’s full of used tissues and her loo’s been broken for a few days now. Squat in the shower, shit at the gym. How’s that for a life motto?

The thing is, Dee pulls it off, this eternal student lifestyle; Pringles for dinner, Haribo for dessert. It’s her prerogative, to live as she pleases and – increasingly – it looks like a rebellion against the usual expectations pressed on women her age: mortgages, marriages, kids. Writer Vicky Jones (who directed Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag) shows us Dee's dating exploits: a revolving door of brief flings and casual f**ks. There’s the disapproving new boyfriend and her flirty girlfriend from the gym; Miles, a weathered old fetishist, who wants to show her the ropes, so to speak and the cocky, fun-filled teen intern from work; plus her straight-laced ex, Sam from Swansea.

It adds up to a sense of possibility. Dee’s a different person with each of her dates and Morgan does well to keep the real her visible – bubbly but blunt – even as she tries personalities on for size. Jones diagnoses a generation that’s spoilt for choice and scared of choosing. That ambiguity is the play’s strongest suit: defending Dee’s right to her lifestyle, while simultaneously raising an eyebrow at it. She comes across no less childish than Betty Friedan’s 1950s housewives in The Feminine Mystique. Indeed, it’s almost as if the sexes have swapped roles – broody men, boozy women. One scene takes that to its end-point when Dee drags one of her shags outside, parading him down the street in her clothes.

Despite a steady stream of decent jokes, it’s the form that’s flat-footed. Touch never really finds a distinct shape for its story and Jones’ own direction lets it go slack – little more than some strong characterisation. James Clark finds the kindness that underpins kink, and Matthew Aubrey lets a wetness leak out of a strongman in a boilersuit.

Tonally, however, it’s pure studio sitcom – think Two Packs of Condoms and a Bottle of Lube – and the whole thing feels like little more than a calling card for a six-part series. Jones never quite finds the gross humour of squalor in the way that, say, Stefan Golaszewski’s Him & Her revelled in, and winds up with a slobby Secret Diary of a Call Girl instead. It’s not a complete mess, just a bit scruffy and stale.

Touch runs at the Soho Theatre until 26 August.