“Can you not…with the Wotsits”
From its opening moments of one of the more unconventional sex scenes you’ll see this year, it is clear that Vicky Jones’ The One fits very much into the vein of work that she, and frequent collaborator Phoebe Waller-Bridge, has been mining for the last couple of years. Jones directed Jack Thorne’s Mydidae and Waller-Bridge’s own Fleabag – the latter also appearing in both – and along with The One, there’s something of a reclamation about the way we discuss sex and relationships, a frankness with a particularly feminist bent which has been most refreshing.
That said, I’m not too sure how I felt about The One – the fierce intensity of Jones’ writing not too well served by the oddly expressionistic touches of Steve Marmion’s production and another performance from Waller-Bridge that occupied much of the aforementioned territory once again, leaving me feeling a little disappointed. The audacity of the piece is often breath-taking as it constantly dares to say the unspeakable and is completely unconcerned with making itself likeable but amongst the desire to shock, I found little that it actually wanted to say.
Harry and Jo’s relationship is definitely warped. They live for the games that they play with each other, on each other, the psychological and indeed sexual warfare is how they get their kicks and any damage they inflict is merely collateral. We’re with them for one long night as they wait for news about Jo’s sister who is about to give birth and during this time, they’re visited twice by Harry’s friend Kerry who has had her own traumatic night at the hands of her partner. But rather than tea and sympathy, gin and harsh realism are on the menu as she gets sucked into the game.
Jones revels in keeping us deliberately off-balance, the line between truth and fiction is constantly blurred so it is never clear just vicious or playful Jo and Harry are being, whether the upturning of a mouth will turn into a smile or the baring of teeth. Waller-Bridge and Rufus Wright deliver this balancing act well but something nags, the play is over so quickly that nothing it raises is ever really dealt with – the complex feelings resulting from laughing at a rape joke are thus left for us to deal with in the bar afterwards rather than after the interval.
Which isn’t always a bad thing, but one which felt dramatically unsatisfying. As did the strangeness of the directorial choices with their heightened theatricality, a twisted rom-com feel that proved way too distracting for me. But it was nevertheless pleasing to see the Soho Theatre packed out for this show close to the end of its run.