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
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
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.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering