Well, well, well, here we are again. A one person show, just shy of an hour long, asking for our undivided attention while we follow their life’s journey and the various peaks and troughs throughout. Going into shows such as these I am always conscious it can so easily go either way, I would dive further into the uncertainty I experienced, but given the title of this review, you already know how I feel about this particular show. So let’s cut the ballshit and dive headfirst into the life history of May (or is it Mai? Someone help me out here…)
Helpfully split into six bitesize sections, Sugar follows the life of May from age eight to eighteen and as previously mentioned is told solely from the mouth of May herself, played beautifully by Mabel Thomas. With the exception of occasionally playing other characters from her memories, and some well timed voiceovers, as an audience we are completely trusting of May to tell us her story without leaving out any relevant details.
The challenge Thomas would have inevitably faced with this character is believably playing the same person at different ages. I have seen many shows in which actors have tried, and failed attempting the same task; but with Thomas is it quite the opposite. Young May has a blind innocence only a child could have, sixteen year old May goes on a wild and relatable adventure exploring and eventually discovering her sexuality, leading to eighteen year old May struggling with the task of “spotting a gay in the wild” claiming that the modern world means that “rainbows are no longer a give away”. Whilst I’m sat here watching my screen enjoying all of the various firsts in May’s life I am also fighting an itch in the back of my mind, as an audience we know something ominous is approaching, Thomas and her engaging performance so easily distracted me from that, but I suppose that was rather the point. I am glad of this, as it makes the ultimate tragedy of May all the more poignant when the build up begins and the moment(s) finally arrives.
I have watched so many online performances over the last eighteen months it’s unreal. Some are recordings of live stage shows, some are stage shows performed in a bedroom to a camera with no audience, some are filmed onstage with no audience. More recently, I’ve noticed a trend of online shows that, regardless of whether their life began on stage they have been heavily adapted for longevity on the screen. This is the case in Sugar and it works better than most I have seen. This show has clearly either been designed or redesigned for film, with cunning Fleabag-esque inserts to camera and well crafted cinematography. There are some minor and somewhat jarring cuts at times, but for the vast majority the editing is also slick.
I shan’t dive deeper into why I was engaged in the narrative so heavily, because to do so requires more specific detail that I believe is necessary or required in this review. All I would say is that the final conclusion is not quite what I expected given the build up, which bumps this show all the way to the top for me.
Sugar captures it’s audience and whisks them away on an adventure of joyful youth, before taking some significant dark turns and leaving us to fill in a post show conclusion of our own. Mabel Thomas’ performance is captivating and engaging to the point where even the array of pictures and miscellanies objects in the background can’t break the grip between her and the audience. (not that I didn’t like the set, it was lovely, I’m just glad it didn’t detract from anything else).
Sugar is no longer available on EdFringeOnline, but be sure to keep an eye out for it incase it makes a return, which I sincerely hope it does.
Mike is our Bournemouth-based reviewer. A true theatre kid, Mike is keen on seeing all kinds of musicals, straight plays, tragedies, improv and more.
Festivals: Edinburgh Fringe (2018-2019, 2021-2022), Brighton Fringe (2019), Paris Fringe (2020)