Tristan Bates Theatre, London – until 8 April 2017
Sublime is a confident and self-assured debut from Sarah Thomas about a brother and sister whose life has been dominated by abandonment and crime. After being away for two years Sophie hasn’t come to make amends for abandoning Sam but needs a couple of heists to make up for the £800k she lost in a job gone wrong. To complicate matters Sam has a girlfriend, Clara, which seems to put Sophie out of sorts. She lies and lures her with gifts to get her on side but is she a protective sister or is there something more.
Adele Oni is one to watch in this fantastic performance as Sophie, sexy and intelligent you can believe that she has used her charms to stay ahead in her life of crime with Michael Fatogun as her charming brother, who with his upper-middle-class girlfriend and his day job seems to have gone straight but like his sister he also has secrets and likes to take risks. There is fantastic chemistry between the two leads and their history, their relationship and crucially their relationship with others feels convincing.
It isn’t completely faultless; the casting of Declan Cooke as two almost identical characters in approach and mannerisms doesn’t help the story or do Cooke many favours and Suzy Gill’s Clara is merely a pawn in the game, a contrast to vivacious Sophie. The second half feels weaker as the true extent of Sam and Sophie’s relationship comes to head and their past comes back to haunt them but this feels like a weakness in the production rather than the script, with Thomas never forgetting that these are characters who like to take risks.
Kudos to the casting, with two back leads this is not a BME tale and all characters could be played by actors of any race and kudos to Thomas’ who doesn’t make this some faux gangster tale but a heartfelt look at taboos and the feeling of needing to belong in a world that has never made you feel welcome.
Thomas is developing the story into a screenplay and I can see where that would have its advantages, it feels almost too structured for theatre and the production struggled to convincingly show what their role was in the heist. A film would give the opportunity to explore their past a bit more. Ultimately this is still one of the finest new works to hit the London stage this year and despite its short run, I hope it is seen by many.