Tag Archives: Oliver Vibrans

THE SOLID LIFE OF SUGAR WATER

The Solid Life Of Sugar Water

★★★★★

Orange Tree Theatre

THE SOLID LIFE OF SUGAR WATER at the Orange Tree Theatre

★★★★★

THE SOLID LIFE OF SUGAR WATER

“Both Katie Erich and Adam Fenton are immaculately cast. Initially seeming a strange match, they grow in strength as a couple before our very eyes”

 

In the programme, before any cast information or plot summary, Dr Michelle Tolfrey talks us through how best to support a friend who has lost a baby. Because of course, it’s such a fragile, awful situation in which, as she says, “you feel terrified of every word you say.” And despite the frequency of the tragedy in this country (director India Lown-Collins says that there were 2,597 stillbirths in the UK in 2021) we don’t really talk about it, because it feels so impossible to begin the conversation.

In this case, it begins with the least sexy sex scene- “Neither of us has washed in weeks”- both in thick knits and woolly socks, and using pillows and bed sheets to demonstrate physical intimacy, despite being only centimetres away from each other. One might easily mistake this for a comedy.

But this awkward, silly scene continues, spliced throughout, first in the telling of how Alice and Phil met, through their courting, to the first years of marriage, and finally to the pregnancy, and its premature termination. Suddenly this sex scene is not so funny, and the reason it’s not sexy is also the reason that despite how horribly awkward and seemingly unpleasant it appears to be, they insist on carrying on. Because at some point, they have to try to carry on.

I’m sorry I’ve told you the whole plot, but it doesn’t really matter. You already know where this is going as soon as you hear the subject, and ultimately it becomes a matter of degrees of tragedy: After something so awful happening to a young couple, can they make it through together?

Both Katie Erich and Adam Fenton are immaculately cast. Initially seeming a strange match, they grow in strength as a couple before our very eyes. Fenton’s enthusiasm and earnestness counters Erich’s bold forthrightness, and both are unafraid to show their innards without warranting much explanation. In fact, this is a theme of Jack Thorne’s play, that we are so entirely within the heart of the tragedy that lengthy explanation is superfluous.

Both leads have disabilities, but this is only worth mentioning because it’s near entirely irrelevant, except to say that director Indiana Lown-Collins has humbled the West End in their lack of inclusivity, showing how utterly immaterial disability is to quality of performance.

Ica Niemz’ design isn’t wholly unexpected, mostly taken up by a big bed that is made and unmade throughout. But it feels completely fitting for a story that, despite taking place largely in other rooms- hospital, cinema, gallery, post office- is always circling the marital bed.

Thorne has found a way to speak the unspeakable, with so much humour and humanity, my heart still hurts thinking about it the next morning.

 

 

Reviewed on 19th October 2022

by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Ellie Kurttz

 

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

Rice | ★★★★ | October 2021
While the Sun Shines | ★★★★ | November 2021
Two Billion Beats | ★★★½ | February 2022

 

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The Process

The Process

★★★★★

The Bunker

The Process

The Process

The Bunker

Reviewed – 18th January 2020

★★★★★

 

“a haunting wake-up call to a society already trapped in a nightmare of its own creation”

 

Language, communication, understanding, conformity, politics, brutal bureaucracy, deafness and the future of a nation are the unlikely bedfellows in a scorching new drama at the Bunker Theatre.

Sarah Bedi’s powerful The Process hits its targets again and again, leaves the audience on the edge of their seats, and may even send them out weeping.

The artistic twist of this piece, which Bedi also directs with flair, is that it is presented in spoken English and British Sign Language. It is a clever device because it means that, but for a very small number in the audience, there are chunks of the play that will not be comprehended fully.

It may be a cliché to describe any drama set in a future dystopian society as resembling the TV series Black Mirror, but in this case it only scratches the surface of a thriller that will evoke shock, anger and even uncomfortable laughter.

From the outset we are told via a bleak projection that some will understand some things, some will understand different things and nobody will understand everything – that is how it is meant to be. What follows is a striking and often scary representation of a society that has become too clever for its own good, rating anyone not fitting in to a precise mould as troublesome or beneath respect.

The central characters in The Process are D/deaf but as a horrifying double climax makes clear it’s as much about the foreigner, the homeless, the poor, the uneducated, the disabled – in fact anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into a preconceived and comfortable package.

The scenario is “the day after tomorrow” with strong hints of a post-Brexit apocalypse. Tech wizard Jo (a blistering and robust performance from Jean St Clair) has created a cost efficiency app which monitors one’s value in society. Contribute too little for the benefit of those around you and you become a Null, a worthless member of the community destined to be locked away and forgotten.

The entrepreneur rapidly finds her personal life and that of those close to her spiralling downwards, with attempts to be heard and understood heartlessly ignored and her own invention turned against her.

This is a strong ensemble piece with all the other actors variously compelling in several roles. William Grint, Catherine Bailey, Ralph Bogard, George Eggay and Erin Siobhan Hutching find humour and subtle shades as the tension builds.

The set, an austere backdrop of impersonal and foreboding cells by Mayou Trikerioti, is cold and unyielding. The discompassionate picture is helped by the hums and throbs of a constant rich soundscape (Oliver Vibrans) and noteworthy lighting/video (William Reynolds).

This fourth full length project from BAZ Productions is not without its flaws – there are moments when the action cracks on a shade too rapidly at the expense of coherence and sometimes belief has to be suspended beyond normal bounds of acceptability – but the gritty credibility and the bold audacity in writing, directing and performances quickly outweighs them.

The Process is uncompromising in its dark message. It is the sort of timely and quality experimental production that makes you desperate for the Bunker to stay open and keep tackling such important issues through drama rather than having to close in the Spring for site redevelopment.

It offers a haunting wake-up call to a society already trapped in a nightmare of its own creation. If we fail to communicate with or attempt to listen to each other then this imagined stark future can only become a grim reality.

We don’t need to understand everything to respond and this stimulating and visionary production could be the first step in mending civilisation.

 

Reviewed by David Guest

Photography by Paul Biver

 


The Process

The Bunker until 1st February

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Fuck You Pay Me | ★★★★ | May 2019
The Flies | ★★★ | June 2019
Have I Told You I’m Writing a Play About my Vagina? | ★★★★ | July 2019
Jade City | ★★★ | September 2019
Germ Free Adolescent | ★★★★ | October 2019
We Anchor In Hope | ★★★★ | October 2019
Before I Was A Bear | ★★★★★ | November 2019
I Will Still Be Whole (When You Rip Me In Half) | ★★★★ | November 2019
My White Best Friend And Even More Letters Best Left Unsaid | ★★★★ | November 2019
The Girl With Glitter in Her Eye | ★★½ | January 2020

 

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