★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Since Fleabag aired on BBC Three in 2016, any comedy with a female lead who talks openly about sex has been described as "the next Fleabag". A comparison that's not always justified and often lazy. But Vicky Jones' debut play The One is in many ways is the predecessor to Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag that not many people know about.
In 2007, Vicky and Phoebe set up DryWrite, a new-writing theatre company and so far they have put on performances of The One, Fleabag and most-recently Touch, all at the Soho Theatre, of which they are currently an associate company.
The One is just as candid, just as filthy and just as funny as Fleabag and thankfully it's returning to London's Soho Theatre for a limited run, four years since its debut and more timely than ever. The hour-long play set across one evening, tells the story of Harry and Jo as they stay up all night, drawing the battle lines of their relationship with sex, violence and Wotsits.
Together they're trapped in a destructive and violent cycle of love and lust and it's all there for the audience to see. An audience who are often laughing, often unsettled and always captivated. 29-year-old Jo was originally played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge and is now played by the fantastic Tuppence Middleton who offers so much to the role. Her performance is natural, authentic, endearing and at times brutally honest. She's the one you root for. The one you identify with. And the one you care the most about.
Why? Because she's in a toxic relationship with Harry, a man ten years older than her who was once her university lecturer, played brilliantly by John Hopkins.
Over the course of the hour we witness an emotional powerplay between the two of them as they discuss openly abortions, rape and sexual abuse. She tells him that he fucks like a rapist and he asks her at one point if she'd like him to rape her.
Then there's Kerry, Harry’s colleague, played by Julia Sandiford who appears at their front door in the night feeling like her boyfriend raped her and with a clear lust for Harry.
Rather dark territory for a play which at times will have you laughing, but before you can finish your laughter something will happen to shock you and make you feel guilty for laughing and audible gasps could be heard throughout the audience on the night I was in.
But that's the beauty of Jones' script. You never quite know where it's going as she enjoys subverting audience expectation. And I'm all for it. One of the fastest hours I've ever spent in the theatre. Definitely go and see it if you can!
The One runs until Saturday 26th August at 7:15pm with extra performances at 3pm on Thursdays and Saturdays at Soho Theatre. Book tickets here.
(This review was based on the opening night performance on Monday 9th July 2018)