Sublime, a debut play by Sarah Thomas, promises balaclavas, wigs, jewels and forbidden passions within the intimate confines of Soho’s Tristan Bates theatre. An ambitious feat, Ben SantaMaria’s shrewd direction helps to guide the action and immerse the audience into the dazzling yet ominous underworld of Sophie (Adele Oni) and Sam’s (Michael Fatogun) criminal exploits.
Unfortunately, Thomas’ script just isn’t fit for the scope of the stage, making for a difficult and deficient experience in what should be a compelling and exciting genre piece. Stilted, dry and quite frankly tedious dialogue dominates much of the first half, with contextual stories of reflection not having the impact that they so obviously need as a narrative ploy. It lacks any sense of realistic authenticity, and one can easily lose traction of the plot due to a lack of stimulus and an estrangement that permeates the writing, from character dynamics to unfathomable criminal activity.
Although Oni and Cooke exude an abundance of dramatic talent, their chemistry on stage is, albeit arguably intentionally, awkward and lacking, and this does nothing for the overall fluidity of the narrative and empathy towards the protagonists. The sexual tension surrounding their familial relationship is neither subtle nor warranted, and explicit sentimentality jars with the premise and credibility of the overall concept. However, through Sophie Oni excellently reveals a depth of character that is multifaceted, vulnerable and resilient all at once, and interacts with supporting characters (played by Suzie Gill and Declan Cooke) with nuance and delicious deceit.
Sublime is a production that, despite addressing rich and provocative themes such as morality, class, law, upbringing and relationships, thematically achieves little depth and clarity towards and throughout its explosive yet disappointing climax. The acting is undoubtedly impressive and occasional moments of both comedy and darkness alike engage and grip all in the room, but a more focussed angle, whether comedic or thriller, is definitely required in order for the show to have any sense of cohesion and credible style. Ultimately, Sublime is all talk and no action, but scattered with brief moments of dark magic that shine as brightly as the gold at the heart of the heist at hand.