After successes online, one-woman play, Sugar, is heading to the Edinburgh Fringe to bring audiences a live version of the production. Mae takes you on a journey through conversation, telling stories as she grows older, where she discovers the rights and wrongs of the world. Facing the realisations as decisions start to get difficult, vulnerability is highlighted, leaving a twisted ending in sight.
Having had the opportunity to watch the streamed version, you can read what I thought here:
The wonderful Mabel Thomas has spoken a bit more about this below.
How would you describe Sugar?
Well this is the question of the hour, I’ve been working on my flyering pitch and this is what I’ve come up with:
What does it mean to win? How many miles per gallon does the average 2006 Toyota corolla get? Why do women learn to exploit? If any of these questions intrigue you, you either need to visit your local Toyota dealer or see Sugar- the Space @ Surgeons Hall Theatre 3 at 7:05pm. Sugar is a moving piece of new writing. This show is funny, and you’ll be thinking about it for days afterwards. Come see Sugar for one girl, five ages, and many morally ambiguous decisions.
What made you want to tell this story, particularly addressing the audience so directly, as if in conversation?
I’m a huge fan of The Office (it’ll make sense in a second). I think one of the funniest parts of how the show is built is the testimonial so that the audience is both able to see a characters actions and hear, from the character, what their motivations are/were. It’s also why you can connect so easily with characters in a book; you’re able to understand why they do what they do. This style especially suits a piece like Sugar where Mae does a lot of things that, to the audience, aren’t necessarily the logical next step, but they make perfect sense to Mae. Without the asides to the audience, Mae would be a much less sympathetic character as you’d only see the result of her actions, not the impetus behind them.
How has the piece been adapted for the stage, after its success online?
I was really lucky to do the digital fringe in 2021. I essentially got the chance for a 'trial run fringe'. Since I’m now bringing it back live, I’ve tweaked a few things that didn’t play well, as well as adding quite a bit of new material. Physically, performing onstage is quite different from performing for film so I’ve spent a lot of time working with my director on the movement in the piece. Also, I’ve been running the piece whenever I can. There’s a lot of added pressure that a live show brings to be able to deliver a great show for every performance (you don’t get a second take onstage.) I’ve also added some pre and post-show music, which is all songs I like, so that’s fun!
Which elements of Sugar are based on your own life experiences?
Every story comes from a grain of truth. A lot of my life experiences have gone into shaping the piece, but also a fair amount of thinking “what if” and then living out elaborate fantasies in my imagination. By using a lot of my own life, I hope the piece has a truthful feel to it. I want it to feel like something that has happened and something that also might happen. I’ve changed the details of some of the 'true stories' in the show, and now the lines between my real memories and the show are bleeding which is psychologically, really interesting to me.
What drew you to combining comedy with the shock and darker side of the narrative?
I can’t stand watching things that don’t have at least a little humour in them. No one wants to be bombarded with purely depressing stories for an hour, you can get that easily enough by turning on the news. Laughter is the easiest way for an audience to engage during a performance. The more engaged the audience are, the more deeply they care about what happens to the characters. As they say; “the higher the highs, the lower the lows.” Life is a messy mixture of light and dark moments and I think theatre should reflect that.
How did you intend to make people feel after seeing the piece, and what message do you want to promote through this show?
I don’t have one specific way I’d like people to feel after the show, as long as they felt something, I’ve done my job. Each person will connect with different moments. I would love for someone to come out of the show thinking it was a comedy and their friend to come out thinking it was a tragedy and for them to then discuss the piece. I guess that’s really my goal; discussion. Although the play is primarily from one perspective (Mae’s) the differing perspectives people bring to seeing the show will account for very different interpretations. I wish I could be a fly on the wall and listen to what people say about it afterward! (On a practical note being a fly would suck, no one would take a flyer from a fly on the Royal Mile. Also, what’s a fly doing handing out flyers- they have like one day to live, go do something fun dude).
Where would be your dream venue for performing?
Ooooh this is a fun one! Harold Pinter Theatre on the West End would be good, or somewhere else prestigious like Broadway. As a Minnesota native, I definitely have a complex about performing at the Guthrie so it would be nice to check that off my bucket list. But honestly, anywhere I have an audience that’s excited to be there is the best venue I could have (corny, I know).
Thanks so much to Mabel for arranging for me to review the digital version of this production, and giving some excellent answers about the show. Best wishes for the run and beyond!
Grab your tickets here: