28/02/2014 07:16 GMT | Updated 29/04/2014 06:59 BST

Theatre Review: The One, Soho Theatre


On the face of it, an evening watching a play on the deterioration of a relationship from discontent to abuse might not seem desirable. But when the talent behind it is one of the country's finest up and coming theatre companies, then it most definitely is.

The One is a night spent with Harry (Rufus Wright) an English professor, and his former-student-now-girlfriend Jo (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) as they stay up all night waiting for news on the expected birth of Jo's nephew or niece.

But this is no quaint couple sitting on the sofa passing the time. It's clear from the start that this is an unhealthy relationship but what starts as bickering and quarrels starts to get out of hand through the combination of alcohol and an unexpected visit from Kerry (Lu Corfield), an ex-flame of Harry's who remains obsessed with him.

The talent behind this play is DryWrite, the ground-breaking and award-winning team behind hits such as Mydidae and Fleabag. Vicky Jones and Phoebe Waller-Bridge are the two Artistic Directors behind DryWrite and here, Vicky Jones writes and Phoebe Waller-Bridge stars.

Waller-Bridge wowed in Fleabag last summer, a performance for which she won The Stage's Best Solo Performance 2013 and Joint Winner, Critics' Circle Most Promising Playwright Award, 2014. And her unnerving talent for playing complicated, amoral and scheming women, on show here again, is a little frightening. But she inhabits Jo with such force that you are once again in no doubt to her talents.

With Fleabag and now The One, Drywrite is carving a niche for itself in dark plays that are both disturbing and viciously funny. It's another star turn from Waller-Bridge and confirms that, in alliance with Vicky Jones, Drywrite is truly a team to watch.

The shadow of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? looms large over this play, the famous couple addicted to their deeply destructive and abuse relationship. But Vicky Jones' writing is so sharp, fast and contemporary that it feels very current.

Nor does Vicky Jones pull back in her writing as Harry and Jo's relationship slides deeper into abuse and vitriol. To say The One touches on difficult and controversial issues such as when sex becomes rape, and those addicted to violent, abusive relationships would be to underplay the writing - this play crashes head into these subjects at full speed.

And that's the bravery in Jones' writing, what makes this piece so exciting - it's complete rejection of there being boundaries in art as in life. No subject is considered out of bounds or to be handled carefully. If theatre is to truly reflect life as it is then work of this style and standard is critical.

The play is short at 75 minutes but that is to its advantage. It allows the writing to be punchy, shocking and means the characters never have to explain themselves - we are just witnesses to behaviour that exists but remains taboo. Any longer and you feel the material would lose its stylised and exciting pace, and the material would have been spread a little thin.

Instead we're left, as the sun rises, with an ending that makes perfect sense. It's unclear whether anything has been learnt or resolved between these three very troubled characters. It's an ending perfectly in keeping with what has gone before, yet still surprising rather than a cliché. To pull that off underscores yet again the talent that is on show.

Soho Theatre, London

To March 30, 2014