The Solid Life of Sugar Water

Birmingham Rep Door


The Solid Life of Sugar Water is a funny, poignant and touching story about the connection of a couple and how they deal with the death of their baby.

It is strikingly real in its delivery and the story is hardly unusual, it can relate to any one of us. In a brief encounter at the post office, Alice and Phil meet and soon become married.

Soon, they find themselves dealing with the unexpected tragedies of life. We are introduced to the start of their relationship and quickly jump to the snapshots of married life in the present, what was in between is left for the audience to infer.

All elements of the play are as striking as the next, often hitting the audience hard with unexpected events. This is mostly down to Jack Thorne’s wonderfully poetic and compelling script.

In it we see the monologue of each character, as they reveal to the audience about the way they truly feel, analysing events of the past and questioning their own personal courage

Apart from saying ‘I’m sorry’, the couple have no interaction with each other, which creates a level of separation that Phil and Alice know to be true, but never talk to each other about. Together with the performances of Genevieve Barr and Arthur Hughes, the script aims to get to the centre of the emotional dependencies and explores the effects and devastating aftermath of having to deal with loss and grief.

Director Amit Sharma leads the strong cast of two in an intense journey through what intimacy is really like after marriage. It takes us to unexpected dark places and surprises us with what suddenly can happen out of the blue. Happy and hopeful scenes of the past instantly cut into the bleak and desolate scenes of the present.

Thorne, Sharma and Graeae Theatre Company have worked together to create a rarity within art. Graeae work specifically with deaf and disabled actors and naturally, this adds a new dynamic to the tense and at times heart-breaking story too. Thorne’s script is goes beyond the physical and talks about themes that are universal to all. What sets this story apart is that Sharma does well to unearth the hardships that come with rebuilding relationships and intimacy after an incredibly hard loss. Most can relate to Thorne’s themes of sex and intimacy within the production, but we see the consequences of not communicating, after Phil and Alice suffer terrible loss.

The set is as gripping as the performance itself, allowing the audience to feel like a fly on the wall. The space of the Door is intimate and close, a great reflection of Phil and Alice’s tense and at times stifled relationship.

It is dark and their intensity and indeed heavy emotional moments give the feeling that we are the third person in their room. Most of the dialogue takes place on their bed that faces outwards to the audience, positioned at the back facing vertically, allowing the audience to have a birds-eye view. Scenes are short and often we cut back to flashbacks at the start of their relationship with edgy sound bites and strobes to quickly change the mood.

To see Phil and Alice’s interaction with each other is fascinating. They talk to us the audience about one another, but their feelings are never reiterated to each other. It is what goes unsaid that draws the audience in furthermore and makes Thorne’s work fascinating. Barr and Hughes are wonderful in their parts, with a chemistry to show Alice and Phil’s love/hate relationship and the responsibility of tenderly engaging the emotional trauma of loss is brilliantly dealt with by the pair. Sharma makes sure to give credit to Thorne’s gripping script and allows the audience to become transfixed by the deeply troubled and tragic relationship. To 06-02-16 and then on tour.

Elizabeth Halpin


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