Genevieve Barr

Perspectives on... The Solid Life of Sugar Water: Week 2

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Our second blog behind the scenes of Theatre Royal Plymouth and Graeae Theatre Company’s exciting new co-production of Jack Thorne’s (Skins, Shamless, This is England) new play, The Solid Life of Sugar Water comes from Genevieve Barr:

Exploding boxes, pyjamas, licking necks and lots and lots of baked beans.

After six months overseas, I returned to the UK last month to start rehearsals for a brand new play written by Jack Thorne, ‘The Solid Life of Sugar Water’. I play the part of ‘Alice’. My wonderful counterpart, Arthur, plays my husband ‘Phil’. And that’s it. There’s two of us. And sixty-six pages of script staring at us.

A tumultuous journey so far, we are finally reaching the end of the second week and gasping for a few days off – but there will be no resting on our laurels. Next week is the last week at Graeae before we take the production to Plymouth, and a dawning of dread is already starting to swirl around my ankles.

So let’s not talk about that.

I am fortunate to have some very supportive friends, whom this week, have kept me in reality check. For when asked about my day, the other day, I said:

“This morning I was experiencing the beginnings of foreplay in bed, this afternoon I went to the cinema, an art gallery and had a kiss on a bridge. I don’t know which one – the text doesn’t say.”

Bless them, because rather than get bogged down the details, they turned to me and said:

“Gen, what on earth are you talking about?”

And that’s the real struggle as you get more and more immersed in this beautiful play, you start to go slightly insane. Acting isn’t about playing the role, it’s about becoming the role. And so, every day ‘Alice’ becomes more Genevieve and Genevieve becomes more ‘Alice’. You might as well start calling us ‘Genalice’.

Thank goodness my character’s name is not ‘Tilda’.

(Try taking the first two syllables of my first name, and the first syllable of ‘Tilda’ and see if you get what I mean)…

Probably not that funny. Sorry.

When I first read the play, two things became immediately transparent to me:

1) This would be one of the toughest roles I’ve had the fortune to play.

2) My granny was definitely, firmly, assertively NOT allowed to come and see it. Our relationship would never recover.

To pinch some of Jack Thorne’s words when he was talking about the play the other day, it is a story about recovery. The couple are trying to deal with a very traumatic event – with the death of a newborn baby and through their grief, their relationship has deteriorated. They have to rediscover why they loved each other in the first place and deal with having sex for the first time since it happened. We will take you through a journey of our relationship – flashing back into the past, but also trying to have sex- an uncomfortable experience both textually and literally.

At least for me – I can’t speak for Arthur!

For while Phil and Alice have been married for a few years, Arthur and Genevieve have only known each other a couple of weeks. The trust and amount you have to give each other in a very short period of time is immense. It isn’t always easy – but we are getting there.

Amit, our director, does a great job of keeping me sane (ironically, for those who know him). He understands which buttons to push with me.

At the start of the week, I was really grappling with with the physical aspects of the play – the movement on the bed (for the bed is upright against the wall, so when we are lying down, we are standing up and when we are standing up, we are lying down)…the mind just boggles. There are a lot of technical aspects to figure out – for the play jumps back and forward, in fact it just hops all over the place. During all of this, I have been trying to understand who my character is and why she feeling the way she is – in every word, sentence, paragraph of the play.

We are getting there – and I am proud of the amount of progress we have made – though there is still a way to go. So it is with excitement, tremulation and slight trepidation that I look ahead to next week and what it brings.

The Solid Life of Sugar Water will be performed at the Theatre Royal Plymouth from Monday 8th to Saturday 13th June before transferring to the Pleasance Dome at the Edinburgh Festival from Wednesday 5th to Sunday 30th August.

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