After a year away, Mabel Thomas brings her acclaimed show Sugar back to the Fringe, this time in person. The room is sold out and it creates an intimate setting for the story to be told. This smaller setting really works, as the online environment last year was a uniquely individual experience. In my view, it won’t be long until Sugar, and other Mabel Thomas stories, will be told in front of much larger crowds.
This is an electrifying in-person debut from Mabel Thomas
The story remains the same as last year – a coming of age story for Thomas’ character Mae from the ages of six through to eighteen. Mae begins the story losing her favourite playground game to class mate Grant – a boy! This is something that not only shocks six-year-old Mae, but will shape her experiences going forward. From the ages of six to ten, it’s clear that Mae just wants to be grown up and will try and do anything to be seen that way. Thomas does an incredible job of entering the mindset of a child, reminding us all of the mind games present in a six-year-old, something that brought a smile to my face when the memories were unlocked from my own life when I watched the performance.
When the character reaches the age of sixteen and she starts to discover her sexuality (namely with her friend Susan) Thomas’ acting chops really began to shine. Navigating the queer world is difficult, especially for a young queer person, and a scene involving a gay bar and an Australian accent had the audience in stitches. Thomas is fantastic at switching emotions in an instant. This is something that was clear to see in the final act of the play.
The final fifteen minutes or so are very difficult to watch. This is mostly due to Thomas’ ability to engage the audience and take us with her on this crazy ride. Her likeability and her talent at making the audience care for her character mean that when something horrendous is happening to the her on stage, we can only sit back and watch and wish we could help. There are a few funny moments in the final section of Sugar, but there’s no laughter because we’re too emotionally involved in the story for anything to be funny. There are nervous laughs from Mae in trying to justify everything to herself and as an audience, like with the online version of the show, we simply become helpless onlookers.
This is an electrifying in-person debut from Mabel Thomas. As I said in my review last year of Sugar, this could, and should, be put on television. It has all the makings of a six-part series. I believe Mabel Thomas will be a star. If Sugar is anything to go by, it’s not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’.