Despite the sparse set and a cast of only four, Lucy Prebble’s The Sugar Syndrome is hardly a minimalist play. Heavy topics such as psychological disorders and paedophilia discussed in the work were handled exceptionally well by director Tasmin Swanson. Swanson kept the story line from becoming too fantastic at times, which is possible with the plot as it is written. The new Barron projector was used wisely, utilized not only for setting but also to represent computer screens. The music cues were well placed as well as splendidly chosen. Swanson’s choices kept the show not only believable but also captivating.
The actors must also be praised for their performances. Sandra Koronkai-Kiss and Peter Swallow, although appearing slightly less often than their cast mates, were an absolute delight to watch. Koronkai-Kiss, playing Jan, a middle-aged housewife who is in denial about her separation with her husband, handled her character extremely well. She hit the nail on the head, making you relate to her as you would to your own mother; maddened by all of her little idiosyncrasies, but loving her all the same. Swallow, playing Lewis, a sexually frustrated young adult with too much time on his hands, handled his character with a deft hand. Swallow’s acting progressively got better throughout the show; despite his slow start he must be praised the most for his timing.
The relationship between Dani and Tim is a strange and unconventional one. Coco Claxton played Dani, a teenage girl who recently returned home from spending time in a clinic for her eating disorder. In the wrong hands Dani could come off as petulant and attention-seeking. However, Claxton reigned in the character and pulled her down to earth, making her less a caricature and more of a real person. Her performance was mesmerizing to watch, regardless of whether she was impeccably delivering little sarcastic quips or having a full meltdown. Tim, Dani’s other half, is a man twice Dani’s age who initially meets up with her expecting an eleven-year-old boy. Played by Alex Levine, Tim isn’t inherently likable. Regardless, Levine kept Tim from coming off as creepy and turned him into an average man. However, Levine went even further and managed to make this strange person endearing, which is commendable.
The Sugar Syndrome, a show with potential for being overly dramatic, was made believable as well as enjoyable by director Tasmin Swanson. The actors all did a fantastic job at portraying their characters realistically, and the overall understated tone of the show brought intensity to the story and helped make an impact, making for an ultimately wonderful and entertaining show.
Photo credits go to The Sugar Syndrome, Lightbox Creative, and On the Rocks