Tristan Bates Theatre, London – until 8 April 2017
This first play by Australian writer Sarah Thomas is billed as a dark comedy thriller – but it feels though it has tried to cram too much in without any idea of where it wants to go. Sublime begins with the unexpected arrival of Sophie sneaking around her brother Sam’s kitchen, busting back into his life because she has managed to get herself into a little bit of debt and wants Sam to help her raise the funds through becoming con artists again – but can she convince him to do it?
Throughout Ben SantaMaria’s production, there is a lovely under layer of tension between all of the characters – particularly seen in the opening scene when both Sophie (Adele Oni) and Sam (Michael Fatogun) are both on edge and not sure how to be around each other. But it also manages suggest that the fact Sam and Sophie enjoy being con artists so much is that it allows them to remain invisible and not face up to responsibilities and deny a forbidden passion – suggesting a hint of vulnerability.
The play has a cat and mouse feel about it, leaving the audience constantly on edge on who to trust – as evidenced when Nigel begins to catch on to the pair and what they are up to. Alongside this, Thomas has a skill for creating a sense of subtle menace and viciousness that can be quite effective.
But the problem is that this cat and mouse game that Sam and Sophie play can become exceedingly wearisome, due to the lack of action that takes place on stage and the fact that the script flits from discussions of the jobs the pair are going to carry out to talking about their childhood that it can be frustrating to listen to.
But there are still some solid performances to be appreciated. Adele Oni, is an effective Sophie, one minute childlike in her attitude when it comes to discussing her plans to then being completely reckless as seen in her intense conversation with Nigel reveals. Her performance is balanced by Michael Fatogun as Sam – in equal turns frustrated by Sophie and increasingly wanting to do the right thing by Clara but bored by his quiet life. It is a subtle but nicely judged performance. Meanwhile, Suzy Gill as Clara and Declan Cooke as Nigel/Paul don’t feel as involved as they could have been – which is the fault of the script as opposed to their performances – both adding increasing pressure to the central characters effectively.
Sublime is a frustrating watch overall. The script needs tightening and even the characters could use a little more defining to make the audience feel more engaged with their story, but there is still potential there to make a great play – it just needs a bit more work.