THEATRE REVIEW: Touched at Nottingham Playhouse

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Time has been kind to Stephen Lowe’s play Touched.

Forty years on from its premiere, it still felt fresh at Nottingham Playhouse this week, in a production featuring a strong cast with plenty of local connections.

Set in the 100 days in 1945 between VE Day and VJ Day, this is a play that focuses on a group of strong Nottingham women and how ordinary people cope while living through extraordinary times.

In this case, those 100 days took in the end of hostilities in Europe, Labour’s crushing election victory over Winston Churchill and co, the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan and finally the end of the war in the Far East. Momentous times indeed.

Heading the cast in her professional theatre debut is Nottingham’s very own Vicky McClure as Sandra, the complex woman at the heart of Touched.

Still grieving for the loss of her child killed during a blackout four years previously, awaiting the return of her long-absent husband from fighting overseas, we dip into her life and that of her sisters Joan and Betty, plus their neighbours and friends.

McClure has already shown how very good she is on TV in the likes of Line Of Duty and This Is England. Here she provides the strong centre in this slice-of-life play, full of familiar references that will induce a knowing smile in local audiences.

Equally impressive is Aisling Loftus as her tough but tender sister Joan and how refreshing it was to see such a good cast with so many of them either hailing from the area or having studied at the city’s famed Nottingham Television Workshop.

(There’s no chance here of the cast struggling with the often hard-to-imitate East Midlands accent!)

This is very much a play about women, with the three male characters being largely peripheral. The production’s key strength is that it has two performers as good as Loftus and McClure at its heart.

If the high promise of the first half and then the first scene of the second half is not quite sustained to the end, this is still a production very much worth seeing, neatly directed by Matt Aston and with impressive use of period news reports and songs, plus the projection of a map of Nottingham onto the sets, to please both the eye and ear.

Touched is at Nottingham Playhouse until March 4. Tickets are available by contacting the box office on 0115 9419419 or go to www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk

Photos by Robert Day