By Hettie Judah
Audiences at The Touching Contract have to sign a form that lets performers touch them – in the manner of a child, a sick relative, a doctor and even a predator
We are a doughty lot when it comes to physical contact with strangers. Routine city commutes can throw up various combinations of jabbed crotches, crushed breasts and armpits in the face. So the human tangle that participants find themselves placed in at the end of The Touching Contract feels a bit like the cramped journey to the show on the tube. Among other things, it's a reminder of the social contract we enter into when living cheek by jowl with our fellow humans, the everyday niceties that make such proximity bearable – from clean hands to fresh breath and functioning deodorant.
Rolling out over four nights at London's Toynbee Hall, The Touching Contract requires full-body participation from its audience as they are channelled through the building's halls and theatre spaces, not to mention its corridors, stairs and lift. The body-to-body language developed for the work, by Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne, is based on local activists' and community organisers' experiences of detention, control and medical treatment, as well as the day-to-day shove and grind of life. At the hands of female performers dressed in institutionally “cheery” yellow tones comes touch variously reminiscent of the affection of a child, the slack weight of a sick relative, the ambivalent probing of a doctor, or the furtive gropes of the predatory.