Following the success of filming their plays Rattle Snake and Key Change, Open Clasp Theatre returns to the format with Sugar, the first of their productions to be created especially for film. It’s a hard-hitting but empathetic drama focused on the lives of women who have fallen through the cracks of life, compellingly performed by a talented cast.
Christina Berriman Dawson, Zoe Lambert, Taja Luegaezor Christian and Paislie Reid all excel as women trapped, one way or another, in a system that doesn’t care about them: in a homeless shelter, a prison, doing probation. They are very much individuals, but their lives have much in common: chaotic home lives, destructive relationships and addiction. But by presenting their stories in a series of monologues, Sugar encourages us to see beyond the easy labels society places on them – whether that be criminal or victim – to the women themselves, with all their flaws and their feelings and their needs.
Tautly directed by Laura Lindow and eloquently penned by Catrina McHugh, Sugar can feel bleak, but it’s leavened with enough energy and humour to prevent it feeling too preachy. The piece is also well-served by Verity Quinn’s sparse, utilitarian design, grey walls and minimal props offering little respite or comfort.
Filmed theatre can be a tricky beast, falling between two stools, but here it works well: what we lose in terms of the immediacy of live theatre, we gain in intimacy, as the camera focuses closely on the women’s faces, their expressions so often revealing the things they can’t find words for.