Sweet Novotel (Novotel 2), Edinburgh
Sugar tells the tale of flatmates Steph (Kate Wilson) and Rhona (Ellie Squires), fed up with their dead-end jobs and dead-end lives. They’d just like to be able to pay the bills without borrowing from Rhona’s boyfriend, Mark (Matthew Ogden), again. When they realise – via Steph’s listless trawling of Tinder – that there are men who will pay quite handsomely for a pair of… used tights… they set aside their qualms, nylon up and set up a small business. Surely nothing can go wrong?
The script, wittily penned by Catrin Evans, is Sugar‘s greatest strength. It’s a quirky, original idea, and the writing is sprightly and lively. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud funny lines, but also some serious points being made – about poorly paid jobs, for example, and the fact that even full-time workers can’t pay their modest bills. I would like a bit more detail about their workplace, though: they are dressed as if they work in retail, but their talk of HR, etc. makes it sound more like they are based in an office. It’s a small thing, but I find myself wondering about it, which is somewhat distracting.
The direction by Evans and Robbie Crow is generally good, allowing dynamic movement in a tiny space, although I do find myself a little irritated by the pointless exits and entrances, where characters leave the stage, only to return five seconds later to exactly the same position. A simple lighting change would be far more effective here, and would look less clumsy.
Although funny and engaging throughout, the acting is a little uneven, with some of the cast playing up the humour to the detriment of credible characterisation. Squires stands out, convincing even when Rhona’s behaviour is utterly ridiculous.
This, though, is partly what the Fringe is for: giving creatives the space to try out new ideas. And this one, I think, has (nylon covered) legs.