The One, theatre review: Joyless sex turns to power games in savage portrayal of relationship

Soho Theatre, London

Vicky Jones's award-winning debut play is a savage, uncomfortably funny dissection of a relationship in which desire has turned to destructiveness. 

The opening scene – joyless sex while watching porn and scoffing Wotsits – establishes the boredom that Rufus Wright's Harry, an achingly smug lecturer and his younger partner and former pupil Jo (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) try to counter by competing to see who can be the crueller. 

These power-games start off as juvenile and joky but after the late-night arrival of the distressed Kerry (Lu Corfield), an old flame of Harry's who claims to have been “sort of raped” by her boyfriend, they become ugly and physical.  

Waller-Bridge is excellent as the snarky Jo, a woman whose intelligence has gone toxic on her and she and Wright powerfully evoke the sort of couple who are simultaneously ideal and a disaster for each other. 

A victim of domestic violence might find this privileged pair's vicious role-playing flirtation with the limits of the consensual a mite self-indulgent, but the piece, premiered in Steve Marmion's knowing, incisive production (ironically suffused with “The Music of the Night”) shows daring as it treads its own risky line between apparently callous comedy and compassion. 

A highly disconcerting 70 minutes.

To March 30; 020 7478 0100

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