Vault Festival: Sugar Coat

Images by Ali Wright


Forge in The Vaults, Leake Street Tunnels, Waterloo.


10-15 Mar, 7.30pm. Running time 1 hr.


Written by Lilly Pollard and Joel Samuels. Performed by Rachel Barnes, Dani Heron, Gracie Lai, Anya Pearson, and Sarah Workman. Directed by Celine Lowenthal. Musical direction by Lilly Pollard and Anya Pearson. Produced by Emma Blackman.


“A new gig theatre show about love, loss and lubrication. Based on a true story and pop-punk feminism”.

Gracie Lai and Dani Heron in Sugar Coat. Image by Ali Wright.
Gracie Lai and Dani Heron in Sugar Coat. Image by Ali Wright.


Dani Heron introduces her bandmates, “we are Sugar Coat!” in the style of a club gig, before we are taken into the story of a sixteen-year-old navigating exams and first fumbles in the 1990s.

Samuels and Pollard have put together a show, with compositions by Pollard, which both celebrates female sexuality and deals with some frank discussion around traumatic events (abortion, miscarriage, rape) and their physical and psychological effects on one individual.

Rachel Barnes in Sugar Coat. Image by Ali Wright.
Rachel Barnes in Sugar Coat. Image by Ali Wright.

The powerful, loud songs led by guitarist Pearson, powered by drummer Workman, and with strong vocals by Heron and Lai, backed up by Barnes, got me rocking in my seat from the first notes, although the lyrics now and then got lost in the wall of sound.

Heron’s central performance was superb, noting the weirdness of sex therapy and the threple situation she settles into, calling forth tears when recalling the loss of her “little prawn”, glowing with young love with first boyfriend Dean (a stand-out turn from Workman, who also struts in a Small Faces way as a politically-inclined student).

The other characters in her life are cleverly defined: Barnes plays a sympathetic mum, a lesbian student and a direct therapist; Lai is a “yah” type Posh Boy and the girl who brings Heron’s character back from dryness to tears of joy; Pearson is a “beautiful boy” of a one-night stand, a music lover, and the boy in the threple.

Sarah Workman in Sugar Coat. Image by Ali Wright.
Sarah Workman in Sugar Coat. Image by Ali Wright.

All convince and segue seamlessly from the musical numbers into the storylines. This is an extremely direct show with descriptions of blood, vaginal tightness, and sexual non-consent, but it is presented in a way which is both moving and funny.

Sugar Coat is a female/non-binary led piece of loud gig theatre which has a deep sense of its own power, starting with an invitation to “come up and dance if you want” and ending with “fuck the patriarchy!”.

Judgement: Wow, Meow, or Furred Brow?

Sugar Coat is a Wow from the start, a show which celebrates womxn eveywhere while taking on a story which is rarely discussed.

It’s brave to have a musical show focusing on how one woman deals with vaginismus over a period of years, and it shouldn’t really work at all. That it does is a tribute to all involved.

And yes, consider me signed up if the story does continue in Sugar Coat 2!

LouReviews received a complimentary ticket to see Sugar Coat.