Sugar Baby satirised the food industry with one eyebrow firmly raised, mocking both the trend of ‘clean eating’ for which vegan titans like ‘Deliciously Ella’ are increasingly coming under scrutiny, and the corporations responsible for marketing and profiting from such trends. It staged this conflict through the relationship of a mother and daughter: the former being marketing director of one such food giant, ‘Delight Inc’, and the latter a vegan activist and NGO-worker nonetheless still living in her mother’s expensive North London flat. The humour implicit in this (very recognisable, speaking as a recent university grad) situation was well played out by Holly-Rose Clegg, who managed to differentiate between the 22-year old Mimi – Mimosa in full – and her mother with skill. Characters were, at times, a tad too caricature, but they were energetically and enthusiastically conveyed. The dilemma of the modern single mother was well considered, with Clegg (as Mimi’s mum) despairing at her daughter never giving ‘anything back’, against Mimi’s accusations of her mother’s perennial absence as a consequence of work.
Sugar Baby was well acted – with enthusiasm, energy and engagement.
At its heart, however, Sugar Baby was an exploration of modern western society’s toxic relationship with food, particularly – you guessed it – sugar. Of the sweet treats to which she was newly addicted, Mimi implored of the audience that ‘they’re vegan aren’t they […] where’s the harm?’, thereby asking for our blessing and complicity in indulging her (bad) habit. However, as the plot unravelled, these ‘vegan’ treats to which Mimi was so partial were exposed for the dangerous chemicals that they were, and, in parallel, Mimi and her mother’s hypocrisy and flaws became equally clear.
The plot was compelling enough then, and the space was well used, with a comedic routine enabled through use of the steps to the audience’s right. On the whole, Sugar Baby was well acted – with enthusiasm, energy and engagement. However, Clegg sometimes over-egged Mimi’s character, such that I didn’t believe she was really a 22 year old, so much as an actor impersonating a 22 year old. For an hour of your time, though, you can forgive this exaggeration.
A mother-daughter relationship is at the heart of this cautionary tale about the perils of toxic sugars which satirises the food industry. Mimi is a vegan activist. Her mother Susie is marketing director of a food giant. What happens when her company goes rogue? This comic voyage into the industry's dark soul is seen through the eyes of Mimi. Sugar Baby is loosely based on Anne Penketh's 2015 novel Food Fight which followed Susie's adventures in Washington DC. Sugar Baby, set in London, is a far darker story. Praise for Food Fight: 'fun yet insightful' (Independent).