SUGAR COAT | London, Southwark Playhouse

This review contains spoilers.

One in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. A quarter of adult women in the UK have been sexually assaulted. This one-woman show about vaginismus takes an unflinching look at how experiences of teen pregnancy, miscarriage, and sexual assault, can all come together to cause painful sexual dysfunction. But, also, how sexual therapy and a loving, experimental threesome-cum-throuple can overcome it.

Of course, it’s not really a one-woman show. Although the show revolves around a ninety-minute monologue and memoir, based on a true story, by an unnamed woman (Dani Heron), she is flanked at all times by a four-piece Riot Grrrl band, who also chime in with the voices of other characters as needed. This device lifts the sadness of the monologue with the feminist energy of a rock gig.

The songs and story by Lilly Pollard and Joel Samuels brilliantly evoke the style of the music that the unnamed woman loves so much, interspersing the monologue with musical reflections that allow for whatever’s needed at that moment: sometimes, beautiful, three-part vocal harmony; other times grungy, head-thrashing anger.

In addition to the drama and entertainment, the show has a very obvious educational element, too. Men, women, and everyone have a huge amount to gain from the play’s fast-paced, difficult revelations: these are issues that are bound to affect us or those we love. As they say: “If you don’t entertain them, they won’t listen”. Here, we have to listen.

Playing at in ‘The Little’ at the Southwark Playhouse Borough venue 29 March – 22 April 2023.

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