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Review of Sublime at The Tristan Bates Theatre

Sublime - Photo Credit Sarah Thomas
Sublime – Photo Credit Sarah Thomas

The opening scene in Sublime was so slow to get going, and the subsequent scenes weren’t much pacier. It never gained the momentum that it could have done, especially given the rather dark storyline. The problem with talking about plans to do this and do that, without seeing any of the action taking place, is that it becomes as ultimately believable as an early ‘I wish’ number in a musical. I thought of tunes like ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly’ from My Fair Lady, or ‘Money To Burn’ from Half A Sixpence. What to Sophie (Adele Oni) and to a lesser extent her brother Sam (Michael Fatogun) are achievable aspirations comes across as delusions of grandeur.

This may granted, have been quite deliberate. Occasional moments of dark humour were pleasing to observe, though for the most part, this was a world in which nobody trusts anybody, whether stranger or close relative. In the latter case, however, familiarity bred contempt indeed. A more hard-hitting second half, as opposed to the comparatively lukewarm first act, could have been more explosive still. The narrative instead fizzles out. The two siblings that were at each other’s throats in public kiss (too strongly and for too long than biological siblings ordinarily would, and that’s all I’ll say about that subplot) and make up, and all is well with the world. There might as well have been an ‘all together now’ finale number from a musical to round things off with.

There’s not much sweetness and light, however, in what goes on. Sam has made attempts to go straight and has a girlfriend, Clara (Suzy Gill) plus a day job. Sophie appears to have presumptuously waltzed straight back into her brother’s life after an extended period of absence. Sam retains subtle links with the underworld, despite repeatedly telling his sister that he does not want to go in for the hard and dangerous sort of criminal activity anymore. Being as cutthroat and ruthless as ringleaders are, these remaining unsevered ties count for little, if anything, especially when it becomes known among those who need to know that Sophie has carried out three ‘jobs’ in less than a week, far too frequent to stay incognito. One more musical reference, if you can bear it. The siblings’ attempts to draw Clara into their family reminded me of ‘Consider Yourself’ from Oliver!

A convincing supporting performance from Declan Cooke, doubling up as Clara’s father and a senior figure in London’s thieving hierarchy, adds much needed extra layers to a show that would otherwise be a series of stilted and awkward conversations. For a story of this nature, the characters live their lives remarkably drug-free. This production was too much of a slow burner for me. Whilst I had some interest in how things would turn out, I also had some difficulty maintaining it. The sense of suspense and intrigue that permeated earlier scenes gradually dissipated as there was more of the same. In the build up to yet another robbery, I found myself – morality aside – just wishing them to get on with it.

Elsewhere, I wasn’t too keen on the padding out of the narrative with stories about the siblings’ childhood experiences. The tepid ending could have been improved if, for instance, someone went down in a blaze of glory. That the siblings come away completely unscathed doesn’t seem entirely credible, particularly given the upset the siblings apparently caused. Even they seemed surprised to live to see another day, and it is at least an unexpected plot twist. The script could do with some tightening to become a 90-minute no interval play: the break in proceedings here disarmed whatever tension there was. A good effort given it is the writer’s first play, however.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

Sophie bursts back into her brother’s life, on the run from trouble after going missing for two years.
Can she lure Sam away from domestic coupledom to rekindle their old crime partnership and save her skin? Balaclavas, wigs, jewels and forbidden passions collide in this tough-talking, fast-swindling dark comedy thriller.

Adele Oni
Declan Cooke
Suzy Gill
Michael Fatogun

Writer Sarah Thomas
Director Ben SantaMaria
Sound & Lighting Designer Keri Danielle Chesser
Stage Manager Cornelius Dwyer

A provocative new play from Sarah Thomas, directed by Ben SantaMaria
Tue 4 – Sat 8 April


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