Technical Difficulties Obscure Message: Sugar

2 stars

Sugar is a show that clearly has a message, but it struggles in the delivery. The powerful narrative, incorporating third wave feminism wrapped up in a fourth wave envelope, was sidelined on opening night by numerous tech and staging issues.

Image courtesy of Paper Haus

Image courtesy of Paper Haus

The opening juxtaposition between the saccharine sweetness of Sugar’s character and the presence of brash and bold Mamma was fabulous. It set the tone for the rest of the show. Despite this strong start, though, the narrative direction was quite vague. The intention of the story, though, is of great value.

Sugar presents a message about not qualifying your value as a woman based on your relationships: don’t rely on others to generate your self-worth, be who and what you want to be. Also, being a “girly” girl, an aspiration that was widely derided in early feminist movements, doesn’t reduce your worth or the power of your voice.

The individual talents on display from the performers were wonderful - ranging from dance to song and some stunning aerial work - but they were not effectively linked into a greater body of work. While this was itself acknowledged in a clear nod to the audience, it remained an issue that undermined the power of the message.

This is a show that’s clearly targeted at girls heading into their teenage years and for that audience it is pitched at the right level. The message is unsubtle but that isn’t an issue in and of itself. What is confusing is the time slot. Performing a show like this after 8 o’clock seems an odd choice. This was evident with perhaps only half of the opening night audience being around the target age group.

The opening night performance was let down by severely lacking audio-visual support. Queues were missed, at some points the visuals seemed out of sync with the audio, and numerous other issues detracted from what was a strong performance. This was only compounded by the performers tendency to stand in front of the projector, and further so by a couple of issues with props that simply failed mid-show.

Given the reliance that key parts of the narrative had on the projection, these tech issues had quite a devastating impact on the show. A whole SMS conversation at a pivotal point in the story, for example, was simply not shown - leaving the audience playing catch-up on the story.

Hopefully for the show, which is promising and carries a message that needs to be heard, these opening night issues are resolved for the rest of the run.