The Solid Life of Sugar Water

Graeae Theatre Company, according to the information sheet handed out before the start of the show, sees itself as ‘a force for change in world-class theatre – breaking down barriers, challenging preconceptions and boldly placing deaf and disabled artists centre stage’. While some of their productions have toured in Scotland before – most recently Blood Wedding, a co-production with Dundee Rep Ensemble and Derby Theatre – this may well be many people’s first encounter with the company. So thank goodness The Solid Life of Sugar Water proves to be such a bold statement, of both the quality of the company’s work and their emphasis on ensuring that it’s as accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

Both actors dig deep into themselves to personify the growing emotional disconnect between the couple

Sugar Water is a surprisingly hard-hitting two-hander that initially appears to be nothing more than a somewhat dirty-mouthed rom-com; the opening scene has a young couple, Alice and Phil, unintentionally betraying their complete lack of understanding of what each other likes physically in bed. Yet, no sooner have we slipped back in time to their first meeting – in the queue at the local post office, where Alice’s initial reaction to Phil was mild annoyance at the size of his parcel – then writer Jack Thorne skilfully starts laying the groundwork for the bad thing that is yet to come, the event which has broken this relationship arguably beyond repair.

At the start, of course, it’s all brightness and light: Alice quickly realises that she likes Phil – even if, physically, he has “the shoulders of a much younger woman”. Phil, meantime, finds her deafness “exotic”. There’s plenty of rude fun at this point; yet, as we progress through their first few dates (and the initial enthusiasm of their first lovemaking, to the accompaniment of Dire Straits), Thorne’s script hesitantly, but inexorably shifts us towards the very personal disaster which befalls them.

Both Genevieve Barr (as Alice) and Arthur Hughes (as Phil) dig deep into themselves to personify the growing emotional disconnect between the couple, expertly charting the many misunderstandings, evasions and deceptions that ultimately undercut this relationship from the start.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

'It's not like riding a bike. Sex. It's far more complicated.' Phil and Alice are in love – familiar, flawed, ordinary love. Phil and Alice are on a journey, but this journey doesn't have an A to Z. Tender and compelling, this world premiere from award-winning playwright Jack Thorne is an unsettling play about loss and love. Jack Thorne recently adapted the cult Let the Right One In for the stage, while for television his credits include Glue, Skins and Shameless. All performances include audio description and creative captioning.

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