Touched For The Very First Time, Trafalgar Studios, London

2.00

This must be the only play I have ever seen where the paparazzi have stormed the stage before the curtain call has even begun. And where the star has happily posed for them backstage for a little while before re-emerging to pose for them a little bit more, this time with the photogenic producer. Well, who needs applause when you've got the pop of a hundred adoring flash bulbs? And what else can you expect when you put Sadie Frost (ex-wife of Jude Law and drinking partner of Kate Moss) on the West End stage in a one-woman play about Madonna, produced by Imogen Lloyd Webber (daughter of you-know-who)?

In Touched for the Very First Time, Frost plays Lesley, a Northern lass who, in the absence of an attentive mother figure (too busy being a socialist feminist), turns to Madonna for female guidance as she grows up in 1980s Manchester. As the chameleonic queen of pop negotiates her route from New York club chick to disco divorcee via erotic siren and earth mother, so too does Lesley wend her way down the tricky passage to womanhood, taking Madge as her lead on everything from sex and boys to fashion, career choices and motherhood.

This device means the play opens to the rather alarming sight of the 43-year-old Frost prowling around a messy bedroom and writhing on its bed in leopard-print leggings, pretending to be a 14-year-old virgin. Once the shock has worn off, Zoe Lewis's play feels a little like watching a chronological medley of those "I heart 1984" programmes television was so keen on a while ago: a quirky encounter with ecstasy at an illegal rave here, a reference to meeting Meg Mathews in the Met Bar there. While there are occasional flashes of warm Northern wit and, in the early teenage scenes, an Adrian Mole-esque gift for laconic observation ("My mother was a feminist. She doesn't clean, because she believes in equality"), too often Lewis relies on comfy clichés to herald the passing of the years. Lesley's voice, initially endearing in its naivety – "It is my 16th birthday and I am wearing my power suit from Next and Poison by Dior" – starts to grate as Lesley ages, though never, apparently, grows up into a two-dimensional adult. Ultimately, Lewis doesn't take her material anywhere deeper than a cosy nostalgia-fest and some vague thoughts on sisterhood and girl power.

As Lesley, Frost is a surprisingly game performer. In a good-natured performance, she prances around the stage, not afraid to play the fool, dressing up in ever more ludicrous ensembles, tackling regional accents and not in the least bit squeamish about acting out some of the more sexually embarrassing tales.

She does, though, tend to rattle through her lines rather than fully inhabit them, which means that she too often misses the point of them altogether and fluffs the jokes. She suffers from a woeful lack of direction, too, forced to undertake tricky costume changes only half-hidden from view and passing the scene breaks with some awkward posing and voguing as fairy lights flash and Madonna songs boom out of the speakers.

At the end of the play, the word going around my head is "brave". But you don't come to the West End for bravery. If it weren't for the unholy female trinity of Frost, Lloyd Webber and Madonna, this amateurish production would never have made it off the fringe. Which is girl power of sorts, I suppose.

To 14 March (0870 060 6632)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood

'Whether he left is almost immaterial'TV
Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before