Review, Sugar Coat, Southwark Playhouse, by Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

What more could you want from a play than no boundaries commentry on female love, life, sex and feminist punk music? Sugar Coat effortlessly encompasses the whole lot and more.

With a live female and non-binary band, this play is a verbatim meets rock musical theatrical production. We follow a girl from childhood, through her teens and her 20’s, through heartbreak, sexual assault, love and therapy and the relationships, emotions and feelings that come with it. It is an emotional rollercoaster yet full of laughs and a great big hug in words, where there are no boundaries on topics or themes.

It may not be the right thing to pick out as the stand out, but as a punk rock fan, I loved that the story began as if we were welcoming a band at a gig – they embodied this rock n roll ethos and it did make you question what you were about to view. This approach to a theatre production felt like something new and interesting, and immediately hooked me and my personal passions. The second stand out for me was how plain and transparent sex, issues, thoughts and emotions were talked about. There was no beating around the bush (pardon the pun), masking realities – they were out right calling spades a spade and talking candidly about physical and emotional items. For the prudish, this is not for you. But it was liberating and great to see fear and censorship thrown out the window instantly.

The themes were ones of difficulty but also ones of liberation – miscarriage, sexual assault, transition to adulthood and femininity, of first times, of cheating and of polyamory. They were themes that today’s youth go through and never speak about and to know, even as a 30 year old woman, that they were thoughts, feelings and situations that happen (for good or bad) to others through the coming-of-age period, was actually reassuring even 12 years past going through it myself.

The music was well constructed and fit well with the narrative – mirroring what was being experienced and, for someone who feels a lot within music, drummed up a lot of feelings within me. There were also times to bring out your inner rock star and refreshing and fun to see an all female/non-binary cast take this celebration and run with it, encompassing all there is to come with rock stars.

My only qualm was that it felt like the blueprint for this production was repetitive. We have a verbatim monologue, we are introduced or re-introduced to other characters who say their bit, then we are back to monologues. We are then in dispersed with music and back to the same. And while all of this was perfection and excellently executed, I found myself wanting something to break up that cycle, which never came to fruition. A happy ending of sorts, with the idea that other plays and stories could be told of what happens next, this didn’t feel enough of a cliff-hanger for me to be happy with it as an ending.

Sugar Coat is emotional, comedic, laid back and fun; it cuts into trauma and lays out growing up as a female and all the issues and confusion that comes with this. It has some sick music and taps into lovers of 90’s rock, but the format felt repetitive and needed something to break into this predictive plan.

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