They say write what you know and that’s certainly what Louisa Doyle has done with Sugar & Salt. Her début play follows two uni students, Minu (Verity Brown) and Moni (Isabella Rogers) through a couple of weeks of their archetypal student lives. They have conveniently opposing personalities, creating moments of tension in this otherwise predictable play.
Doyle opens with an impressive poetic duologue between the two leads, introducing us to eccentric Minu and organised Moni, friends ‘since the womb.’ This is the peak of the play as Doyle’s script soon drifts from initially captivating and original text to the uninteresting lives of the two women. Moni darts about to interviews, drinks with friends, work and dates and Minu waits at home, building an art school portfolio. They chat and bicker and nothing really happens.
Both actresses are thankfully engaging throughout, with each one emphasising their polar differences to the other. While this sweet sugar and bitter salt polarity was often cliché, it felt easy to find similarities with my university friends in the two characters. I just wish their differences had allowed for a little more dramatic tension.
Brown is hugely promising as Minu, with wide eyes and a big heart and Rogers excels as the practical, rational Moni. Some of their conversations did feel contrived and bits of text were missed but it was charming to witness their friendship. Unfortunately they are never given the chance to test their characters as the play flits from one inconsequential day to another, with very little emotion or events for the actresses to exploit.
Oliver Tennant and Fraser Dodds are nice in their peripheral roles, playing the two men in the women’s lives, but they never seem to find their purpose. Once again this was down to an absence of plot.
It is unclear if Doyle took inspiration from the recent BBC drama Clique, set at Edinburgh University, but it seems as though she has written a series of disconnected character introductions, as if for a TV show, and has not considered the simple structural requirements of an hour-long play.
The Edinburgh Fringe is a fantastic opportunity to take risks and push boundaries, but this play felt far too safe. Even in such a great venue with wonderful set, costumes and tech, the four capable actors could not maintain this weak script. Doyle’s direction was at times interesting and her opening poem was enchanting, but without an overall plot, or even a clear purpose, the piece falters.