With a lack of challenging acting roles coming her way, Louisa Doyle put pen to paper to bash out her own play, one with characters she actually wanted to play. Notes soon became scenes and scenes joined together to form something coherent and now Doyle is debuting her first ever play at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Entitled Sugar & Salt the play follows two university students as they battle student life, romances and trying to sort out differences in communal living.
Growing up is not a unique topic for a theatre production, Doyle acknowledges, but says you can only write what you know. “It’s nothing ground breaking. But there are situations and feelings in there most people have been in before.”
Cast member Verity Brown – who plays one of the leads Minu – says it’s not another play about women talking about boys. Yes, that’s a sub-part of it, but she says it’s “empowering for young girls to watch”. Also, it showcases a cracking playlist of Doyle’s “great taste”. The illustrious Escape song by Rupert Holmes – “Do you like Pina Coladas? And getting caught in the rain?’ – is a firm favourite which features in the production.
Even though it was the first play she’d ever written, Doyle says not once did she think anyone else would be directing it. It was for her, and only her. Yet she recognises it was a huge challenge.
“It’s funny, you have a picture in your head and sometimes what happens is not how you’d imagine it would be,” she says. Take the characters for example. Doyle says she had the exact person in her mind, their mannerisms and quirks that she wanted to translate to the audience. But ideas invariably don’t go to plan. Her mind says they’re one way, reality says another. “But that’s okay,” she says, “it’s exciting.”
Doyle and the cast say this play is for everyone. However, after watching it’s clear the student body is who it really calls to. Not surprising given the subject matter, it just limits the audience spread.
Still, Oliver Tennant who plays Minu’s love interest, reckons it’s for mum and dad too. “Parents would also enjoy it,” he says. “They’d get some insight into their children’s behaviour while at university. It’s quite a mature play, and quite intelligent.”
A lot of people will also recognise the relationship between the two main characters, adds Isabella Rogers, who plays second lead character Moni.
A four person production, no one in the cast really knew each other that well before coming together. While some are, or had been, university students involved in the arts scene, Fraser Dodds who plays Sonny, Moni’s love interest, says he saw an open casting call on Facebook and decided to audition.
“I was needing something to do in the Fringe,” he says. “I didn’t know anyone beforehand, but auditioned and got the part.” Tennant too says he met everyone when he came to the Fringe this year. Like Dodds, the Facebook message sprung out to him and he soon nabbed the role.
Aspiring actors, these four have many inspirations for their performances. A common thread throughout them all is a sense of naturalness.
For Brown, Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’ Diary is a classic. Her “effortless” acting and friendships portrayed in the film strongly resonate. Dodds is a fan of the “natural” Adam Driver, well-known for his role as Adam in TV show Girls. Phoebe Waller-Bridge from British program Fleabag is who Rogers really looks up to. And Tennant is a firm fan of playwright Marcelo dos Santos for the use of his “natural language”.
With the Fringe now sadly at an end, the cast reported back on what’s tickled them during the festival.
Buzz: A New Musical, a musical about vibrators, is apparently on the hit list of hilarious and well-done performances. A five man play called Fauna also makes the Sugar & Salt cast’s recommendation list, as does a humorous play called John, held at Bedlam Theatre.