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The One review at Soho Theatre, London – ‘humour and horror’

John Hopkins and Tuppence Middleton in The One at Soho Theatre, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Following one couple over the course of a wine-fuelled night, The One is a punch of a play that places humour and unease side by side.

Perhaps this is no surprise, given that the Verity Bargate award-winning play, first performed in 2014, is the work of Vicky Jones, the creative partner of Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

Harry (John Hopkins), a lecturer in his late 30s, is in a relationship with his young ex-student Jo, a role originally written for Waller-Bridge, now played by Tuppence Middleton.

Harry’s colleague Kerry says that Jo “wrecked Harry’s reputation, killed his baby, brings out all the worst of him, patronises and demeans him”. The toxicity is far from one-sided however, with Harry getting his own dressing-down via Jo who labels him a “misogynist who cheats when he’s losing, kisses like a trout and fucks like a rapist”.

Rob Casey’s lighting consists of a sleek wash of reds, blacks and blues. It gives the production an uneasy feel. The full moon backdrop, coupled with twinkling stars that are illuminated during the play’s shifts in time, brings a level of absurdity to the piece that fits the tone well.

There’s strong work from Hopkins and Middleton, as well as from Julia Sandiford as Kerry. Over a tight 65 minutes, it’s the small directorial touches from Steve Marmion that really make this play work — Harry and Jo’s precise movements, the tipping of wine off the stage to show how much they are drinking.

While The One is often funny, the way Harry and Jo push one another beyond all normal convention sometimes jars with the play’s quieter moments. However when it works, it really works. The closing five minutes are genuinely brilliant and watching the couple attack each other is equal parts fascinating and horrifying.

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Verdict
A punchy play that explores a toxic relationship with humour and horror
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