Sexual violence. Verbal abuse. Psychological torture. Infidelity. Rape. Abortion. The basis of an earnest, plodding issues play? No, the shockingly funny, keenly observed and Verity Bargate Award-winning debut from DryWrite’s Vicky Jones, currently provoking audiences at the Soho Theatre.
The One is a real high-wire act, gleefully puncturing taboos with its frank and filthy approach to moral discourse without losing its essential humanity. Its characters frequently exhibit monstrous behaviour, but are not simply monsters; Jones’s script is far too sly for that. Her chillingly co-dependent lovers are tangled in a vicious, sadistic game of chicken, needling one another until they draw blood, and yet who’s to say it’s not true love? This unsettling piece doesn’t so much blur lines as tear them off the page.
It benefits from crisp focus, telling the toxic tale of Harry and Jo through one intense night. That the English professor shacked up with his student is the first of many transgressions; more urgently, the pair needs twisted stimulation to break through the fog of their cosmopolitan ennui. A visit from Harry’s colleague, tearfully proclaiming she may have been sexually assaulted by her boyfriend, is the perfect fuel, and this incident kicks off a series of shifting challenges to the audience’s cosy assumptions.