At just 22 years old, writer and performer Mabel Thomas brings her debut solo show Sugar to the Fringe. Described as 'One girl. Five ages. Many morally ambiguous decisions', this online show is more than just your average coming-of-age story. This really is something special.
This really is something special... intelligent, relevant and powerful
Thomas plays the main character, Mae, at different stages of her life. The entire monologue takes place in a bedroom. It’s a cosy and calm setting, something that wildly juxtaposes some of the material to come. Sugar begins sweetly enough. Mae, is eight years old and playing on the playground, losing her favourite childhood game to a boy, of all people – something she’s not happy about. As the situations change and Mae gets older, we see just how much something like this affects her. As Mae hits her mid-teens, she navigates the difficult world of relationships and discovering queer culture (or, as she says in a wonderfully succinct line, “Gay is hard!”) For the majority of the show, Thomas performs slightly off to the side of the camera. Up until now, this was something that I wasn’t particularly a fan of because I feel as if the character lacked a certain connection with the audience. That was until I watched the final 20 minutes of the show.
The final section of the show, Mae at 18 years old, is unsettling, troubling and gave me chills throughout. This is thanks in part to the wonderful writing, but also the choice not to play directly to the camera. We as an audience become helpless onlookers as Mae tells her final story, unable to help or connect with Thomas’ character. It’s a bold choice, but one that pays off at the end.
Sugar is a wonderful piece of theatre. This review is intentionally a little vague as I don’t want to give away too much. With some work, Sugar is something, I believe, the BBC could pick up and put on iPlayer, or make into a short BBC 3 series. It’s intelligent, relevant and powerful. Mabel Thomas has a bright future ahead of her.