Touched…Like a Virgin
at Soho Theatre, London
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When, half an hour and several fluffed lines into her role as loveable Manc and Madonna enthusiast Lesley, Sadie Frost unforgivably confuses Like A Virgin with Like A Prayer, the one star review starts writing itself.
Odd then, that despite being a show full of teething problems, sound issues, space limitations; the whole thing veined with a wafer-thin premise (although comparing the trajectory of Madonna's life and career to your own as a mode of self-analysis is understandable. Anyone currently in the earth mother phase?), it's almost impossible to dislike Touched… Odder still, the ex-Mrs Law has a magnetic personality and a bit of a knack for acting, drawing on both to carry this play through its modest one hour running time, flanked only by a heart-meltingly cute/camp older gentleman on singing duties (all whispered vocals and jazz hands). Who knew? Furthermore, who knew she had a role in Bram Stoker's Dracula back in 1992? *Rifles through DVD collection*
Sadie's is an energetic and highly comedic performance, directly addressing a tiny audience in this tiny (and, depending on the weather, potentially sweaty) theatre at various points throughout Lesley's sorry, lonely life. It's a tough call for her, not made any easier by the fact the action isn't in chronological order. We first meet Lesley in her 30s waiting in line at a Swedish sperm bank; we swiftly rewind to her adolescence atop a Madonna bedspread, and the loss of her virginity. Each stop off is preceded by an all-too-brief performance from the aforementioned camp gentleman of a Madonna song of the year in question, followed by a lengthly soliloquy from Sadie. Each time she pops up and is spotlighted in a different and more random corner of the room, each time acting slightly more drunk than the last time, and slightly more upset at her life's lack of direction. But crucially, she never loses her self-deprecating edge. Lesley's a lovely character but this is too simple a template and brief a show to make proper use of her. Dare we suggest, with some tweaking and some supporting characters, this would make a great TV show.
Sadie is wonderful though, and her talent is especially radiant during Lesley's teenage years; she infuses a strong, exaggerated Manchester accent with just the right childlike intonation to make you completely forget the woman on stage is now in her late 40s. She does, by the way, look amazing.
Words: Jamie Tabberer