Sugar And Salt

Aug 18 2017 | By More

★★☆☆☆   Chalk and cheese

Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49): Mon 14 – Mon 28 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

In Sugar and Salt, EUTC’s production at the Bedlam, writer/director Louisa Doyle displays a keen ear for dialogue and a facility with words. However, in the end, the result is never truly cohesive.

Moni and Minu are student flatmates – friends ‘from the womb’ but contrasting characters, at odds with each other, their studies and their ambitions.

Verity Brown and Bella Rogers. Pic: Andrew Perry

The story, while not markedly original, has potential, but peters out amidst cliché and an episodic structure. That title is well chosen – two substances that look similar, are proverbially opposites – and, while good for flavouring, not that interesting in themselves,

Much capital is made from Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes. There are several things wrong with this, which bring into focus the lack of originality and rigour that bedevil an otherwise interesting project.

First, it’s a terrible song, not worth the importance placed on it here. Second, it’s not particularly novel to use it – a couple of years ago, it was utilised by more than one production as playout music, in an attempt to generate a kooky, upbeat atmosphere – much as It’s a Motherf*cker by The Eels became common to signal the opposite.

Worst is the way it is treated. Sub-Tarantino discussions of pop lyrics are all very well, but only work if they have something new to say. Here, it is just one character explaining the lyrics to another. Anyone who is ignorant of the song won’t care, while anyone who has heard it will already know.

interesting characters

This crystallises the problem with the script. Its series of everyday, not particularly startling events needs to have more of a structure or significance behind it, otherwise it just becomes inconsequential. Doyle shows enough ability to write funny lines and create interesting characters, but little becomes sufficiently developed.

Similarly, the direction is inventive and varied – with good use made of Sarah Brown and Michelle Wolodarky’s set – but is not always wholly successful. For example, there are some physical sequences that are nicely expressive but lack a bit of sharpness.

The two main characters are just too neatly opposites to ring true, and their conversations not quite believable. It might have been better to stick with the rhyming dialogue that opens the play, or something like it, as it is when the script strays furthest from reality that it becomes most vital.

Isabella Rogers gives Moni a glacial authority while hinting successfully at the character’s insecurities. Verity Brown plays Minu with a manic energy that is always interesting, although it does mean that some of the lines are almost lost.

Oliver Tennant and Fraser Dodds cope well enough in the other roles, but there is little there for them to do. It is certainly refreshing to see a play where the men are just there to bring the women into sharp relief rather than vice versa, but it is just as unsatisfying dramatically.

There is enough here to show that everyone concerned has the potential to better this sparky but only intermittently convincing production.

Running time 1 hour (no interval)
Bedlam Theatre (Venue 49), 11b Bristo Place, EH1 1EZ
Monday 14 – Monday 28 August 2017
Daily (not Mon 21) at 3.30 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Company website:
Production Facebook page: @sugarsaltfringe


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