The Solid Life of Sugar Water at the National Theatre
The National Theatre’s temporary theatre claims to celebrate original, ambitious and unexpected drama. Jack Thorne’s The Solid Life of Sugar Water delivers on all fronts.
The British still suffer from taboos. As Thorne wittily reminds his audience, effusive apology and comments on the weather are more the local style than frank discussion of disability, sex and death. In an age when talking is all the rage, this prudishness is far more disabling than the physical impairment of the actors involved in the production (Graeae Theatre Company’s Genevieve Barr as Alice and Arthur Hughes as Phil). Sat in the therapist’s chair, the audience is privy to the interspersing monologues of a couple recovering, both emotionally and physically, from the stillbirth of their daughter.
The marital bed takes centre stage in a set that forces intimate inclusion, right at the heart of this couple’s lives. There may be no physically explicit scenes here but the language is certainly graphic. Thankfully, director Amit Sharma’s masterful pacing allows for a good dose of belly laughs between scenes that are often hard to watch. That interruption of comedy, though often a result of crudity, is a necessary antidote to 80 minutes of rising tension.
This is a far cry from the child-friendly Potter play Thorne is currently working on with JK Rowling. Deserving of its 16+ certificate, Solid Life is a fearless tale of trauma and recovery, wrought in thoughtful performance. It comes as no surprise that this play gained rave reviews at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (2015) – a space renowned for celebrating bold and insightful theatre.
Does Phil’s closing “I think I needed that” refer to the preceding confessional or his physical sating? Perhaps it’s better to consider the remark a diagnosis of the audience’s state: it’s brave productions like this that are needed to encourage discussion of issues so easily avoided.
The Solid Life of Sugar Water is on at the National Theatre’s temporary theatre from 26th February until 19th March, for further information or to book visit here.