Sublime, Tristan Bates Theatre

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Sam and Clara live the ordinary, domestic life of a young professional couple, until Sam’s sister Sophie turns up unannounced. The playful, carefree young woman eventually chameleons into someone much more sinister. Caught up in the criminal underworld, she’s back in town with an agenda. As Sophie lures Sam back to the adrenaline-junkie lifestyle of high-end burglary and fraud he’s desperate to leave behind, the siblings’ facade deteriorates further. No one is what they seem in Sublime, though the plodding script that should be thrilling never reaches its potential.

Sarah Thomas’ first full-length play betrays her as a new writer, even if the premise is an interesting one. Long, rambling scenes with little plot progression need ruthless editing. It’s at least half an hour too long for the story she wants to tell. Thomas tries to bring in too many subplots that aren’t fully developed; one of which exposes a completely different sort of relationship between the pair isn’t really explored and contributes nothing to the primary storyline. Clara’s father’s business dealings cannily parallel Sam and Sophie’s, but they’re also only alluded to. The climax is half-hearted and peters out with little consequence.

The four performances are on par with each other, but the script hinders the actors more than it helps. Much of the action is discussed rather than carried out and the dialogue is often forced. The second half has some stylised transitions that are self-consciously executed and totally unnecessary. Slow and movement heavy, they interfere with the already sludgy pace. It’s a shame that it’s hard to get much of a sense of the actors’ abilities, though it’s great to see a cast that’s 50/50 gender split with two BAME leads.

Sublime isn’t beyond salvaging. A thorough cutting and tweaking of some individual moments can streamline the story and make a powerful comment on the care system and not fitting into the status quo. Thomas tries to do too much in this overly-tangled story, muddling her intentions, but there are some interesting ideas underneath.

Sublime runs through 8 April.

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