Venue: Royal Exchange
Where: Manchester

The presenters, of SweetChotto Ookii, once won a Best Newcomer Total Theatre Award and they are still demonstrating that their art isn’t just dialogue but a combination of mime, puppetry, comedy, dance and balloons.

Based on Mike Dusting’s short story, this is a tale of romance without love or a happy ending.  It is a bitter take on romantic comedy in which love is “too sweet” to digest. A man (Jake England Johns), bored by a mundane office job, falls in love with a cake maker (Rebecca Devitt).  Standing outside her window, he is literally frozen stiff so she thaws him out with her hairdryer!

Not only does she thaw his body but also his heart yet this beautiful, difficult to understand woman has a darker side to her character. Devitt uses every sinew of her body to express her feelings. Her facial expressions reveal her thoughts and her jerky, expressive dance reminds you of Coppelia. You can practically see that imaginary cake as she mimes its making.

There is a also third person in this conundrum; the man’s alcoholic, chain smoking friend who interferes in their relationship. He also represents the protagonist’s heart. This role is played in an intensely physical way by long and lanky Matt Rogers[ who must be seven foot tall and makes his pal look like a ventriloquist’s dummy.

I love the small, cloth puppets that occasionally appear. They are perfect little beings with a life of their own and add originality to this quirky play.

The set is economical both in its three moveable white screens and in its cost. There is a dreamlike quality about the presentation. Nothing is quite what it seems and nothing is logical. [William Bartlett’s abstract soundscapes are a joy to listen to and his impressions of car doors slamming, snoring and a beating heart have impact.

His song “Getting to know you” is the ultimate fondant as the couple flirt and preen like a pair of doves.

Sadly, the ending is not sugar, but saccharin. But this is a minor flaw, as Sweet is well worth a visit.  

-Julia Taylor