Sixth Side Theatre Company’s performance of A Chip in the Sugar by Alan Bennet was a short and sweet, entertaining piece of theatre. Performed in Trevelyan College’s Dowrick Suite, the monologue is brought to life by Ben Cawood, who directed and performed the monologue himself.
The monologue follows Graham, a middle-aged bachelor who is over-dependent on his mother. One day his mother encounters a man from her past. Set on marrying him, Graham struggles to understand his own demons and insecurities. In this 50-minute monologue, Cawood successfully presents the speaker’s multi-faceted characters. While Cawood plays Graham, the monologue recounts the conversations between other characters including his mother, and he presents the dialogue in an authentic, meaningful, and witty manner. Graham’s storytelling is incredibly compelling, giving an amazing range of emotions, perspectives, and depth to the performance.
I must applaud Cawood’s attention to detail in his acting. Sometimes, in a monologue, it is easy to fall into the trap of overdramatising your actions and words, because there is no one to bounce the words off to. However, Cawood owned the stage and delivered a powerful performance through his embodiment of Graham. From facial expressions to accent, as well as small and yet impactful gestures like his hand fiddling or the way his feet press against each other. It is incredibly captivating and compelling. I was also impressed with his commitment to his character – there is an incredible level of proximity to the audience, and yet even when Cawood looks into your eyes, you know you are looking at Graham, and not Cawood. Although sometimes it gets tough to pay attention for a long time, Cawood will make sure that he brings you right back into the theatre hall, through his witty delivery and the intensity of his performance.
The set is simplistic but effectively facilitates the narrative throughout the monologue. An armchair, a bed, and a chair, aid Cawood’s movement and characterisation of the story. Although he does not move around much during the monologue, the set helps to keep the monologue from going stale, while ensuring that all the movement that he does is done with purpose.
The technical side of the production, executed and designed by Samantha Wong, was simple but effective in highlighting and sectioning the monologues into the different episodes of the story. Being a monologue, it is often challenging to figure out where one thing finishes and another thing starts, but the change of lighting from warm to cold, and from soft to stark sterile, as well as the soft piano makes it easier for the audience to understand and put themselves in Graham’s shoes throughout the monologue.
Overall, Sixth Side Theatre Company’s production of A Chip in the Sugar was an entertaining and captivating watch, glimmering with talent and dedication.
Image by Sixth Side Theatre Company