Director’s Note: Touch by Suffragette Theatre Company

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Before I started working on Touch I grappled long and hard with whether it felt important enough. Whether it was ground-breaking or breathtaking enough. With multitudes of plays dealing with the disturbingly real and tangible issues facing women I questioned whether a drama about a 33-year-old woman’s sexual escapades was a story worthy of telling. Now that I am at the end of this process, I am utterly convinced of its value. 

I believe it is essential to put female-driven stories written by female playwrights on stage. Vicky Jones has written her protagonist, Dee, with the kind of rare nuance and integrity that feels like a gift. She is not a stereotype, she is counterintuitive, self-sabotaging and does not always make sense. She subscribes to feminism but is acutely aware that this is difficult to reconcile with her fantasies about being spanked by Miles, or the fact that she must summon her ex-boyfriend to fix her loo. She is not black and white: she exists in the grey as real women do, and it is refreshing and delightful to see one on stage. 

In this fast-paced world, Touch asks where communication can happen between partners, what it is to let someone into your space, and how this can affect how we feel about ourselves

Touch dives into the heaven and hell of being a person that is dating. It examines the fun, exhilaration, vulnerability, humiliation and terror that accompanies being a single woman attempting to connect. It looks at the metropolitan sexual reality of living in a world where dating apps may be creating as many problems as they solve by providing their users with endless options and opportunities, an issue that many Durham students know all too well. In this fast-paced world, Touch asks where communication can happen between partners, what it is to let someone into your space, and how this can affect how we feel about ourselves. The magic of this play is held in the moments of connection, in its depiction of the tenderness and brutalities of intimacy. 

Whilst each of Dee’s escapades prompt question and discussion, the one that holds the most importance to me is between Dee and Vera. Here we see the confusion, beauty and difficulties that can occur when female friendships cross the boundaries into romantic feelings and sexual explorations. It is rare to see a bisexual relationship written with such honesty. I personally cannot recall seeing a relationship between a bisexual woman and a female partner in a play in Durham and am very excited to be putting one on stage. 

The rehearsal process has been an absolute dream

Our production definitely has something for everyone, but it really is a love letter to single women. In a world that demands women to have it all together, to be a perfect feminist, to be loved or deem themselves unlovable, we invite audiences to fall in love with a woman simply wading through the mess. Fiona Apple’s music felt like the perfect accompaniment to this story: it drips with messy, brash female honesty. For me, the real love story is between Dee and Dee — it is only then that she can clean up a bit and accept the love that she deserves. 

The rehearsal process has been an absolute dream. Jess, Alex, Guy, Zack and Louis are five total firecrackers, each one of them a joy to work with and a joy to watch. Their commitment, chemistry and comedic timing is remarkable, and I cannot wait to share their talent with you. A special word has to go to Maddie Clark, of whom I have asked a lot and who has given me a lot more. Her magnetism and ability to effortlessly capture Dee’s truthfulness has consistently left me speechless. 

A huge thank you must go to my Assistant Directors, and Honor Calvert, who have slowly become my fifth and sixth limbs. This has been a truly collaborative process and they have been there every step of the way, their creativity invaluable. Additionally, I am incredibly grateful to the wonderful Honor Douglas (Producer), Iona Nixon (Assistant Producer), Fred Hook (Stage Manager), Alex Kessell-Holland (Sound Director) and James Stevenson (Tech Director), who have worked tirelessly and without whom this play could not be possible. 

Having said a lot of eye-rollingly serious things about this play, it really is just such a good time. There is a horrendous strip tease, excessive celery chewing, a dinosaur impression, an impassioned rendition of ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’, an elusive mouse and an MDMA induced dance party. Come along to laugh at the chaos, to think about yourself and why you want what you want, and hopefully to feel a little less alone. 

Image Credit: Suffragette Theatre Company

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