SUGAR written and performed by Mabel Thomas. ★★★★

This hour-long monologue is presented on the Fringe Player as part of the online section of the festival and even though I’d absolutely love to see this live, I have to say, this is a piece that thrives in a virtual setting.  

Our lead feels like an effective amalgamation of various Emma Stone characters – think EASY A and BIRDMAN – she speaks quickly, rarely pausing for breath and hits us with punchy observations and feisty backchat. Her eyes are wide with intrigue and perhaps most significantly, innocence. As she takes us through her childhood years, into her early teens and finally arriving at the end of her teens, we listen to her as she questions why it is that her male contemporaries seem to wriggle out of situations with ease and no consequence or why they are often favoured by various teachers.

As we hover over the goings-on of her late teens, she talks us through areas of her life she feels are out of her control – dating for instance where she introduces us to her alter ego – a Steve Irwin inspired lesbian “hunter” who can’t quite work out who to hit on or how. “Time to bring out the big guns” she tells us.. “do you watch The Ellen DeGeneres Show?” she asks recreating a conversation with a woman in a club.

She steers to focus on what she feels she can control – she wants to save enough money to pay for uni and turns to escorting, reassuring herself that she won’t have any physical or sexual interaction with anyone, but just enough communication to substantially increase her bank balance. She finds herself in a situation she desperately tries to downplay in her mind reminding herself this particular client has offered her $4,000 just to hang out with him. The scenes that follow are hard to watch – Thomas captures the distressing change from the vivacious, self-assured girl we had been getting to know, to the victim of a harrowing attack that leaves her fraught with contempt for herself.

A gripping and intimate piece that hits us with big contrasting moments throughout – SUGAR is bold, witty, canny and heart-wrenching all at once.

Streaming OnDemand til Monday 30th August. Tickets £3/£2 concessions. Available here.

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