Soho Theatre, London – until 29 August 2017
Welcome to ‘Bridget Jones’s Bedsit’. Touch may come from the same stable as the amazing Fleabag but drops the posh and goes Welsh: imagine Stacey left Gavin for a squalid London studio, a diet of Echo Falls, microwave dinners and random sex and you have Amy Morgan’s deliciously messed-up Dee.
The initial impact is great, with a high-raked auditorium and a ‘top view’ rotating set by Ultz which invites you to look down on the character from the get-go.
But still you empathise – of course audiences ‘get’ that contemporary 30-something women own their own sex lives, but there are plenty of hilarious moments of domestic as well as actual sluttery. The early scene where she does a lap dance for her date with cleaning rags and sprays to make the place fit for human copulation is a bit sketch-like, but undeniably funny. But Vicky Jones’ sharp script moves forward with steady ambition and shows its real smarts when Edward Bluemel’s horse-hung teenage intern and James Clyde’s hairbrush-wielding spank daddy each deliver some home truths about Dee’s Guardian-derived politics and morality.
At 22, Bluemel is already a craft actor of rare quality – fresh from playing the angry socialist son to Eve Best in Love in Idleness he shows further range and gives tremendous dimension to this seemingly cock-driven but actually philosophically intelligent younger lover.
Where the plausibility staggers a bit is with the same-sex friendship-affair between Dee and Naana Agyei-Ampadu‘s confident Vera. Not because it’s sexually unexpected as experimentation, suck-it-and-see being her watchword, but because the immediacy with which Vera moves to sort out Dee’s life – where longer-term boyfriends have failed – feels incongrous and a tiny bit preachy.
Despite Phoebe Waller-Bridge‘s involvement in script development, this is not Fleabag 2.0, although it may have similar television ambitions. But it is a play to see now, and Jones is definitely a writer to watch.