In a day and age where blockbusters reign supreme, celebrity status sells just about anything (I'm looking at you, Eau de Paris Hilton), and mini entertainment Brat Packs boycott the box offices like a botox-and-champagne fuelled Mafia, it is little wonder that even off-West-End theatre is housing the overspill of household names. This month, Soho Theatre plays host to Touched... Like a Virgin, a play about celebrity, with a celebrity, attended by celebrities, with lovey-lovey-darling celebrity in jokes. For some, the notion of theatre akin to a night on the sofa with E! channel may induce orgasmic waves of low-brow cultural pleasure. But for me, settling down with an audience including Kate Moss and Keith Richards to watch Sadie Frost crack jokes about her pals, while thinly veiling the hilarity of her own, now ironic, celebrity status, smacked of 60 minutes of gratuitous ego fondling.
Touched... Like a Virgin is the sequel to Zoe Lewis' 2009 play Touched... for the very first time, in which Frost also took the hefty lead role in this one woman show. 2009's Lesley was introduced to us as a die-hard Madonna fan, struggling to radiate the same levels of sexual magnetism, aggressive independence and financial success as her heroine. Now, in 2012, we meet Lesley as a grown woman, jaded and embittered, childless, Turkey baster on the horizon, blood levels more often than not stagnated with alcohol and harbouring a new-found love for Heroine-chick idol Kate Moss (guffaw, guffaw, she's in the audience har-dee-har-har). Strung together by a compère (4 Poofs and Piano's Dave Wickenden) singing Madonna's hits, Frost flits from tableau to tableau around the room, drifting in and out of the audience in a rather cosy manner, which would have been highly effective if Frost hadn't had all the charisma of a tapeworm residing in the belly of Michael Owen. The script requires an ability to flit between various regional accents, which (while decent once established) was shakily executed by Frost, who slipped one too many times to be forgivable. Add in a handful of fluffed lines, some serious upstaging from a portly man crotch-grabbing and winking his way through Madonna numbers, and it's safe to say Olivier fodder this is not.
Luckily, the script is sparkling. Tackling the kind of female issues that Sex and he City dresses up in Manolos and makes light of, Lewis tackles feminism and all it's problems with a dogged tenacity. The real genius, however is in underpinning the narrative with ditties that are immediately recognisable internationally. Not only does it add a sugary palatability to the sometimes bitter flavour of female issues, it also doses up the audience with pop-fuelled euphoria before a word is even spoken. We were like kiddies on the lolly-pop high before a trip to the dentist- I am almost certain the only reason I left the theatre smiling, after what can fairly be comparable to a GCSE monologue performance, was down to the genius of Madonna, via the comic stylings of Dave Wickenden.
Touched... Like a Virgin is only one hour long, has a giggle-studded script, a compere that can only be described as fabulous, and one of the best theatre bars in London attached to it. With so much in its favour, it's only a shame that we are still a society who will buy a theatre ticket to see that bird wot shagged Jude Law. With so many excellent comedy actresses at our fingertips, Lewis has done her brilliant script a criminal disservice.
Touched... Like A Virgin is at Soho Theatre until 9th June.