Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: The Solid Life of Sugar Water, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Pollock.
“If something can’t get any better it’d be perfect, right?” asks Alice, the more pragmatic of the young couple whose relationship we are introduced to in intimate detail during this new play by Jack Thorne, whose other credits include the John Tiffany-directed Let the Right One In for the National Theatre of Scotland and the BBC Three television series The Fades. Amidst a poignant piece where every word is beautifully weighted for maximum emotional impact, the above still manages to stand out as the most resonantly, all-encompassingly human statement.
Produced by Graeae Theatre and the Theatre Royal Plymouth, The Solid Life of Sugar Water follows the former company’s ethos of using actors with disabilities in plays that make no reference to those disabilities in the script. Here, they’re absolutely incidental. As Phil, Arthur Hughes makes reference to Alice’s (Genevieve Barr) deafness as being “quite exotic, really”, in his view. Alice hints at Phil’s lack of physical strength when they first meet, as a huge parcel he’s packed for his globetrotting brother explodes in a post office, and repeatedly fails to understand as he tries to sign “I like you” to her on an early date, his disability making it impossible. It’s a beautiful, tender moment.
What makes this such an exciting, inspiring piece, however – aside from Thorne’s crackling words, fired back and forth between the characters as though they’re thinking in unison – is just how much it isn’t about disability.
It’s about nothing less than love, death and the troubled permanence of a deeply-bonded relationship. Performing against an unmade vertical bed which adds a literal extra dimension to the storytelling, these powerful actors tell of the characters’ gentle, blossoming love in flashback and the cold, hard fact of trying to rekindle physical intimacy after the trauma of miscarriage in the present. That their disabilities have dissolved from our view by the end is just one of the small brilliances at play here.
Pleasance Dome (Venue 23) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 26 August 2015
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