Sugar is an emotional rollercoaster of a play, delivered with sensitivity and humour, while not dodging the difficult, but real, topics of: domestic abuse, mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction, and homelessness.
The research with women in: prison, on probation, and in homeless shelters shines out through the gritty, honest dialogue of Annie, Julie and Tracy.
Sugar is played by three strong lead actresses, one per Act, with an inventive use of the remaining two reading the stage instructions out loud; never has the “third wall” been broken so often and so well. Such instructions included the instruction: “Rewind” – a clever device which enabled the lead character to stop and describe a previous event, without the audience experiencing time travel confusion.
The Sun is Grey in Act one, when we meet Annie, whose dreams of being a dental nurse have been dashed by domestic abuse and a decline into depression and self-harm.
In Act two, Normal is a Moving Target, we meet Julie, on her last night in prison; fourth time lucky. After her background of childhood sexual abuse, rape and drug abuse, I found myself hoping that Julie can indeed rewind and stop, and then go forwards in a new direction.
And lastly, a young Tracy was told that she was The Best Girl in Sixty Streets. Imagine. The pride, the hope. But Tracy has now lived on the streets for two years. We meet her in a homeless hostel, where there’s CCTV everywhere, a closed canteen, and an empty sugar bowl. The noises of a tea urn, and the rotational hum of a microwave, were brilliantly evoked by the other actresses, providing well-timed comedic interludes.
The singing between each Act lightened the tone, and enabled the audience and cast to reset for the next Act. I did wonder whether there were other reasons for the singing, or the songs chosen.
So, yes, this play does tackle difficult subjects. But sensitively, brilliantly. It supports the audience, and the lead characters, as the tales unfold. As an audience, we find ourselves demanding concrete actions to help these three women, and all the others like them, to get off their hamster wheels of destruction and create better, happier lives. Because they deserve it. We all do.
Guest Blogger, March