Having staged it in 1981, the Royal Court Theatre in 2006 numbered Touched among the 50 plays that represented its best ‘state of the nation’ work.
Set in working-class Nottingham in 1945, during the bittersweet days of the half-peace after the end of the war in Europe, but while British troops still fought in the Far East, Stephen Lowe’s play characterises the lives of a group of women who have imagined a future for themselves and society while their men are absent.
Sandra and her two sisters have different hopes for marriage and how children will thrive in the post-war world. No plot spoilers here, but it is Sandra whose ideals are most tested by events. Leila Millson is excellent in the role. She is hypnotic to watch as each beautifully internalised emotion flickers across face. Together with Gemma Valler as Sandra’s sister Joan, these performances capture the essence of this delicately nuanced play, what the director, James George, calls its Chekhovian quality.
The opening scene lacks the pace and energy which should contrast more sharply with the more reflective scenes to come. Some performers could learn from the energy and focus brought to later cameo roles by Aaron Holdaway as the firebrand socialist, Harry, and Jeanette Broad as the mother of the three sisters. By the final scene, however, the cast have come together perfectly in a scene of subtle emotion charge.