Watching A Touch of Mrs Robinson is a phenomenally awkward experience. The show tells the ‘untold story’ of Mrs Robinson from The Graduate through songs, personal musings from cabaret artist and lead Fiona Coffey and reflections on 1960s feminism. Every time the word “touch” is said, the drummer dings a wind chime. Audience members are given two minutes to write a pick-up line; results included: "Take off your thong; I need to water the flowers". Explanation, helpfully provided in brackets: "Because she’d be wet". At the end of the performance, people must then confer with their neighbour on whether they too have a touch—*ding*—of Mrs Robinson, and collect a sticker if they do.
When embodying Mrs Robinson herself, Coffey seems deeply uncomfortable. Wearing obligatory leopard print, her attempts to be seductive are hindered by tentative, self-conscious gestures. Some blame here must go to director Peta Lily who simply hasn’t given her enough to do. That said, Coffey pretending to smoke is among one of the more artless moments in the show.
Though the lyrics are good, and the two musicians on stage give solid performances, Coffey’s singing voice is beset with nerves; watching a performer in real distress is acutely stressful. Compelling insights—such as the dehumanisation of Mrs Robinson in a new poster for the film, where she’s represented by a leopard—are buried, and Coffey’s imagined conclusion to Mrs Robinson’s life sees her as tamed, penitent: “I’m not as good as I’m gonna get, but I’m better than I used to be,” she sings. We can only hope that, following on from this opening performance, the same can be said of the show.