Review: Touch, Alma Tavern Theatre
19 01 2011

When pure evil is committed, we expect the perpetrator to be a man. So when a woman is involved in sickening crimes, such as the paedophile ring who met on Facebook and were sentenced in Bristol Crown Court last week, it sometimes leads to increased levels of revulsion and horror.

In Touch, a new play written by Steve Lambert and performed at the Alma Tavern Theatre, it is a woman who is the ringleader and who engages in some sickening crimes against another woman.

Outwardly, Rachel (Dee Sadler) is a successful businesswoman. She dresses smartly, talks well and when we first see her she helps a young and vulnerable runaway off the streets of London.

But Laura (Nic Ryan), the runaway she takes into her home, isn’t given milk and cookies. Instead, she is chained up and subjected to brutal savagery as a sex slave.

Rachel is helped by Liam (Calum Anderson), a young man who cannot see the bad in her despite what she does. He follows her instructions to the letter, but Laura thinks she can find a hint of a conscience in his confused head.

Lambert’s new play, directed by Lloyd Robinson and produced by Ryan, can be very uncomfortable to watch. Laura is completely helpless, an innocent abroad, and we see her as a little girl in her tender imaginary postcards to her mother, spoken directly at the audience.

This happiness, as she hides the true horror of her circumstances, is contrasted by the savagery of Rachel. Laura’s screams as Rachel entered the room for whatever barbarism she wanted to do next made my skin crawl, while Anderson played the dunderhead Liam with a hint of humility despite his own full part in the heinous crimes.

Made even more claustrophobic in the small surroundings of the Alma Tavern, Laura’s bedroom prison became all too real, but we could only imagine the gruesome basement where she was taken by Rachel and Liam for more punishment.

Touch is a brutally realistic look at a terrible crime. Was this what it was like for Elisabeth Fritzl or Natascha Kampusch? Whether or not, it is a harsh window into one girl’s torment at the hands of two evil yet complex captors.

Touch is on at the Alma Tavern until January 29.