Sublime @ Tristan Bates Theatre

Focussing on the relationship between a brother and sister and their shady pasts as grifters, Sublime is a play about heists, shared history, and the strong bond between siblings. Writer Sarah Thomas starts off with an intriguing concept that explores the complicated partnership between the two main characters, but by the end the story creates more questions than answers, consequently producing an unsatisfying ending.

Sophie (Adele Oni) bursts back into her brother Sam’s (Michael Fatogun) life after disappearing for 2 years. Sam seems to be living a “normal” life – he has a steady job and a long-term girlfriend (Clara, played by Suzy Gill). But when Sophie says she needs his help to cover some debts she owes, Sam can’t say no, and is soon back to his old ways. As they carry out burglary jobs together, old feelings begin to appear, and the siblings are forced to confront questionable emotions.

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Although performed by a cast of four, the play feels like a two-hander, especially in the first half as Sam and Sophie have very intimate scenes. Thomas’ intricate and evocative dialogue is engaging, and has a captivating rhythm that’s perfectly performed by Fatogun and Oni. Even though Fatogun is the stronger of the two performers, their immense chemistry on stage is undeniable, and an absolute delight to watch. Gill is a great Clara, whose middle-class antics provides laughs, and a very a stark character contrast to the siblings’ backgrounds. Sam and Sophie’s complicated relationship leaves so much intrigue and question that you’re desperate for the second half to begin to find more about them and their past.

Yet the second half lets the strong beginning down. When trying to conclude the play it feels as though Thomas struggles to fit all the information about the brilliant characters into a short space of time. Too much of the story is left unfinished for it to be a cohesive ending. Declan Cooke – who doubles as Clara’s dad and the owner of the bar Sublime, which Sam and Sophie plan to rob – is used as a devise to help tie loose ends, which feels like a bit of a cop-out. Thomas is a terrific writer, and the first half of the play shows this, yet the second part feels rushed and haphazard, which isn’t helped by some very gimmicky set-pieces – think Pulp Fiction briefcase-like elements – which look and feel awkward.

Thomas has created a group of interesting characters. A pair of siblings brought up by a man they call uncle who taught them to steal, and a father-daughter duo who don’t know much about each other. It’s a sad and fun story that looks at relationships and love. It explores how people cope with hard times and how some bonds can’t be broken, but also how some kinds of love can be destroying and fundamentally wrong. It’s just unfortunate that Sublime is let down by its second half. Throughout, Sam and Sophie’s characters allude to a big final heist, so naturally one is expected to appear at some point, but it just never comes, leaving you desperately yearning for one. A lack of an elaborate heist wouldn’t be so disappointing if the story provided satisfying a conclusion, but sadly it doesn’t.

Sublime is at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 8th April.

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