The Solid Life of Sugar Water

★★★★
theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 08 Aug 2015

There’s a bloodstain on the backseat of Phil’s car. He blames it on the dog. In reality, it’s a daily reminder of his wife’s miscarriage; the scar of their stillborn daughter. Alice had to give birth to the body the following day. Phil couldn’t bear to watch. How does a relationship survive a thing like that?

Jack Thorne’s play, written for Graeae Theatre, is much, much more than that miscarriage. It’s a full-blown relationship—as fully-blown as you’ll find in fiction—with all its idiosyncrasies and imperfections intact. Thorne takes the couple from an awkward first encounter in a Post Office queue, through early dates and all kinds of sex, to the point where two people build a life together.

Yet at its heart, there’s a lack of communication – and it’s that, rather than the loss of their child, that almost breaks them apart. Alice is deaf; Phil has a small right hand and no thumb. Sign language is impossible, but mostly they’re not honest with one another, too intent on impressing or pleasing the other. You see it in their sex. She likes this, he says. She sure as hell doesn’t. (How refreshing to see disabled characters leading normal, good-bad, rough-with-the-smooth sex lives.)

Thorne’s writing is just so – funny, poignant, arresting, awful. He swerves handbrake turns from rom-com idyll to sharp-focus agony, slamming sex into induced labour. It’s a complex emotional watch, heartwarming and heartwrenching, sometimes simultaneously, but it’s super smart too; great on gender gaps, better on life’s unexpected turns and loaded up with miniscule wisdoms.