The One

Nov 2 2017 | By More

★★★☆☆ Revealing

Bedlam Theatre: Weds 1/Thurs 2 Nov 2017
Review by Thom Dibdin

Smart, sexy and disturbingly dark, the EUTC’s production of Vicky Jones’ first play, The One, is getting a limited two date run at the Bedlam this week.

Jones, who is pals with Phoebe Waller-Bridge and directed her EdFringe hit Fleabag, sets out in hot enough mode to overcome the notoriously freezing temperatures in the Bedlam. But while her script plays games with its audience, it doesn’t give the games enough substance to stand on.

Sam Coade, Cassandra Sawtell and Sasha Decayer. Pic Bedlam.

The play opens with unlovely long-time couple, Jo and Harry, having sex on their sofa while watching porn. Cassandra Sawtell’s Jo is bouncing around, munching on a packet of crisps, while Sam Coade’s Harry is also going through the motions, but with rather less flair.

It’s sexy, very funny and brilliantly indicative of the perverse nature of their relationship – which the play then goes on to explore in the brinkmanship and sex games that are played over one long night that constantly verges on violence, both physical and mental. It is a relationship in which being boring is the most venal and reprehensible of the sins.

The night is kept in motion by the stream of texts from Jo’s family with status updates on the size of her sister’s cervix, as the birth of her first child approaches and she might – or might not, be going into labour and Jo might, or might not, need to be with her.

Dropping in to this as a contrary and disruptive force is Kerry (Sasha Decayer), an old friend of Harry’s. She turns up late at night, distraught with the news that she thinks her long term partner might have raped her.

stunningly casual

The games and role-playing, with abrupt switches of focus and understanding for the audience, are very well delineated by Jane Prinsley’s smooth direction. There is a strong naturalistic air to the whole – and, once they get going, some stunningly casual exchanges that leave you wincing with the pain the characters are inflicting on each other.

Sam Coade and Sasha Decayer. Pic Bedlam.

Princley ensures that games are being played with the audience every bit as much as they are being played by Jo and Harry with each other. Cayzer’s earnest, overpowered Kerry is very much an onlooker in all this. Indeed when she does try and get involved, she is played with as a cat will play with a caught mouse, batting its spittle-flecked body around to try and make it carry on running.

Sawtell and Coade put in excellent performances – and it is a relief to see a production which, particularly in this current climate, does not equate states of undress with objectification of the body.

That said, the production is not without its problems. Sawtell has a very tricky start, with her voice almost completely lost in the opening scene – leaving you with the feeling that crucial character-defining elements remain unheard. Once going, however, she brings some brilliant light and shade to her character – really working the final revelation of the nature of her dark, inner turmoil.

Coade as Harry has a much easier job in many ways. Harry is more of a cypher and there is less subtlety to get right. But with the two actors quite close in age, it is up to him to create the big defining element of the relationship – a sense of the decade difference in ages between the two characters. And Coade’s Harry simply doesn’t feel ten years older than Jo – and certainly not in his late thirties.

It’s important because part of the key to Jones’ script is her subtle, dripping into the script of the nature of the true transgression of their relationship. It’s an excellently handled reveal which, particularly on a set which doesn’t have any suggestion that it is anything but a student pad, now rather jars.

All of which would no doubt be overcome with a longer and more substantial production. But what is there is commendably bold and forthright. It succeeds in its depiction of a female point of view on its own terms, and is easily worth a view. Particularly in these post-Weinstein times.

Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes (no interval)
Bedlam Theatre, 11 Bristo Place,, EH1 1EZ
Wednesday 1/Thursday 2 November 2017.
Daily at 7.30 pm
Full details and tickets on the Bedlam website:

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