Review by Carly Fisher
Mae is about to commit vehicular manslaughter.
She is 18.5 years old and it would be great to say that this is about to be an accident. But it’s no accident. Instead it’s the result of a lifetime of build up to this moment.
And Mae is about to tell us why.
In Mabel Thomas’ one woman show Sugar, character Mae walks us through the pivotal moments in her life where she realised some important things about herself…we start at age 6 and go through to age 18.5, each milestone offering greater insight into the way that society inflicts its beliefs and pressures on children that shape who they become as adults.
At 6 Mae learns that not everyone plays fair to win.
By later in primary school she has worked out that she is different to others because of a lack of financial means and she is sick of losing in competitions like ‘who has the most expensive shoes.’
As a tween she learns that people want to take you and your entrepreneurial ideas down.
By 16 she has realised that she is gay and moreover, that this is not acceptable in many households.
As an 18 year old she learns that her future is limited because of those same financial struggles…unless she changes things for herself.
And by 18.5 she has learnt to be less trusting, less willing, less everything…because people hurt you and they can hurt you badly.
Thomas’ writing is fluid, well paced and informative without necessitating any over performance or over explanation. The script is relatable, laced with humour and extremely well executed.
Though we jump through ages, Thomas is a wise performer and never isolates the audience with changing her presentation to represent her age - instead she implies it with clever changes in pace and enthusiasm in delivery. Other than that, a small felt sheet at the back with a birthday cake on it tells us her changing ages. It is a script easy to follow and yet still full of surprises.
The over arching point of the script is to speculate why someone becomes a sugar baby and how older (often) men so easily lure (often) women into this arrangement. Thomas does an excellent job at proving why and how this is a lifestyle easy to draw people in with - the allure of quick money supporting the idea to work smarter not harder that Mae clings to.
Thomas is a captivating and easily likeable performer. Her youthful energy is an asset to the show and her execution of the piece is flawless. She finds perfect moments of light and shade, proves her comedic timing with ease and still drives home the point of the story firmly to ensure that we all understand - it is easy to judge someone who makes a questionable choice - like becoming a sugar baby - when you don’t know where that person has come from. Mae proves you can come from a good house, a good neighbourhood, a good school, etc and still find that life experiences challenge you to breaking point…feeling different because of socio economic status, sexuality, etc it is easy to empathise with Mae, even if you didn’t think you would find it in yourself to understand someone who has just committed manslaughter. Because of Thomas’ excellent performance, you do. You make the effort to understand Mae and Mae’s actions.
I hope this is the start of a bright writing future for Thomas and that we see more of her plays in time to come. I for one, would ensure to get myself a ticket every time.