Sugar is not so sweet

PUBLISHED: 12:52 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 17:19 16 August 2010

QUALITY not quantity is a phrase that cannot really be applied to playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn, writes Mark Campbell. Written in 2003, Sugar

'QUALITY not quantity' is a phrase that cannot really be applied to playwright Sir Alan Ayckbourn, writes Mark Campbell.

Written in 2003, Sugar Daddies is his 64th play. And considering that his best work was done in the 1970s, it comes as no surprise to find this much later offering has little new to say.

The story (I use the term loosely) revolves around a young girl called Sasha who invites an old man in a Santa Claus costume up to her flat after he is almost knocked down by a car.

This man, 'Uncle Val', proceeds to shower expensive gifts on her, even redecorating her flat with lurid furniture that gives it the appearance of (as one character says) 'a tart's boudoir'.

Sasha not only accepts all this attention willingly, she also stands back as her co-habiting step-sister Chloe - justifiably concerned about the situation - walks out on her.

And all this time Sasha doesn't even expect any 'reciprocal gestures' from the old man.

Quite why she thinks he is doing this is anyone's guess. I hadn't a clue.

Meanwhile, a character with a sinister eye-patch moves into the downstairs flat and lo and behold, starts grooming Sasha in a similar vein to 'Uncle Val'.

She, of course, doesn't bat an eyelid. Despite the fact that 'Uncle Val' claims that it was a one-eyed man who had tried to run him over.

Sugar Daddies may be a poor excuse for a play, but its execution by West Wickham's Theatre 62 last week was nothing short of exemplary.

Staged in the round by John Oakenfull, the pacing was tight and the performances strong.

Del Stone was excellent as 'Uncle Val', a former criminal whose motivations were murkier than the script. Nigel London was almost as good as his arch-rival Ashley, while his real-life daughter Emily played Sasha with absolute conviction.

Pity her character was totally unbelievable.

Sheree Blades could've been less strident as Chloe, but then this was as much the character as the actress; but Sue Parker-Nutley was very funny as the eccentric Charmaine, a character whose last-minute appearance added little to proceedings.

Theatre 62's next production is The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde from 23-28 June 2008. Tickets: 020 8777 3037.

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