Touched review at Nottingham Playhouse – ‘bittersweet and resonant’
A stellar cast of authentic Nottingham voices have been assembled for this new revival of Touched, a 1977 play by the city’s best known playwright, Stephen Lowe. Like Vicky McClure, who plays Sandra, many cut their acting teeth at the Nottingham Television Workshop and have an ease and familiarity with the dialect.
Consequently, Lowe’s bittersweet story of a family of women during the 100 days between VE and VJ Day never becomes a parody of working-class life. They peg out the washing, pack medical equipment at Boots, smoke endless fags, dip in and out of each others’ terrace houses, do the ironing in their underwear and make it all look thoroughly natural.
“Leery little bogger,” say the factory women of the male supervisor, and Nottingham people hug themselves in recognition and delight.
The characters are beautifully and individually drawn. Sandra is the most complex and anguished of the sisters, a demanding role that McClure – making her professional stage debut – rises to magnificently. Joan (Aisling Loftus) is the brash one, while Betty (Chloe Harris) clasps bright hopes for a new post-war world.
Touched starts with the liberation of the concentration camps and ends with Hiroshima. In Matt Aston’s production, designed by Jamie Vartan, the streets vanish, a single cherry tree blooms against a clear blue sky and the people lie on their backs in the August sun.
The world should have been full of promise. This play premiered at the Playhouse 40 years ago and resonates with our times in ways that could never have been imagined.