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  • Henry Longstaff

Sugar - Old Red Lion

Sweet ruptured innocence

Sugar Mabel Thomas


It is easy to forget that every night in small rooms across London, actors and creatives are staging raw and outstanding performances that warrant packed audiences and acclaim. Mabel Thomas’s Sugar is no exception. The versatile writer and performer dives head first into emerging and modern problems of money and power exacerbated by a changing world. It strikes a demanding line, charting plucky innocence that transitions into the brutality of the evolving patriarchy and the dominance wealth holds over society. Thomas has channelled a viciously important story that demands to be heard.

Thomas introduces us to Mae, a wide-eyed and righteous woman, who embodies the work smart not hard methodology. From her cunning schemes as a six-year-old, involving copious amounts of PVA glue, to her to her social engineering to cheat her way to gaining a higher GPA she knows how to work the system. When faced with the prospect and sheer expense of college she opts to try the sugar baby route - going on dates with older, wealthy men in exchange for money, but here the power does not lie with her and the cruel limits of her shortcuts are discovered.

The wicked contrast between the two halves of Mae’s story is what makes this production so compelling. We spend twenty minutes seeing this mischievous and likeable girl discover who she is. Her overly competitive playground game streak matures into sly intuition that achieves frankly impressive results. Thomas understands this evolution impeccably and it is therefore visible in her performance. Her voice subtly changes as she ages, the physicality matching it at every stage as we witness the layers forming on a character that we can’t help but root for. So when harm arrives it is impossible not to see the charming six-year-old, now defenceless, under attack, causing the viewing to be far more impactful and uncomfortable as a result.

Thomas builds a connection with us over the hour, her writing clean and engaging, luring us into the story, even though a callous event waits for us towards the end. A stellar script and impeccable performance mean this production must be seen beyond the Old Red Lion, audiences need to witness Mae’s story for themselves. Thomas wields devilish creative talent that broke my heart on a Wednesday evening in Islington - do not miss this show.

Running till 9th September - Tickets

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