Ali Barouti stars in the first major revival of Lucy Prebble’s debut play, The Sugar Syndrome: a devastatingly and disturbingly funny exploration of an unlikely friendship, our desire to connect, and the limits of empathy.

Prebble’s work includes A Very Expensive Poison (The Old Vic), The Effect (National Theatre) and ENRON (Headlong/Chichester Festival Theatre/Royal Court Theatre/West End/Broadhurst Theatre) on stage and the BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning Succession and Secret Diary of a Call Girl on screen. She is also shooting a brand new TV series starring Billie Piper called I Hate Suzie, which she has written and co-created, to be aired in 2020.

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You’re starring in The Sugar Syndrome at Orange Tree Theatre, what can you tell us about it?

I believe The Sugar Syndrome is about our human desire to connect with people. Since the coming of the Internet the world has become so connected yet there is still such loneliness and isolation that these characters in the play are dealing with. The fact that these characters are able to overlook so many alarming and disturbing traits that they see in each other really reiterates the want for human connection.

How would you describe your character?

I’m playing the role of Lewis Sampson, he is a 22 year old who hasn’t had the best of luck in finding a relationship. Lewis is a misunderstood person who has an idea that he wants to pursue a career in music which he is very passionate about but what drives him the most is his strong desire to find someone to connect with, but he is a not a perfect saint and this is what makes him so human.

What’s the most challenging thing for you as an actor about this role?

It’s been a stimulating process preparing to play Lewis as I constantly found myself learning and discovering more about him as a person as a result of exploring the text and his relationships with the other characters. The challenge I enjoyed the most as an actor preparing for this role was finding the delicate balance of Lewis’s personality. It’s very easy to read Lewis and write him off as a self-serving person, but I knew there was a much more considerate side to him, so it was important for me to show this in my portrayal of him.

What has impressed you most about Lucy Prebble’s writing?

Lucy Prebble’s writing constantly impresses me. I’ve read other pieces of her work and I find she really is both fearless and totally honest in exploring how human desires work. The fact that The Sugar Syndrome was written in 2003 and is still so current and relatable speaks volumes for Lucy Prebble’s writing as not much has changed as to how people currently use the internet to connect and how as people we are willing to stretch our limits of empathy.

What have you enjoyed about working with director, Oscar Toeman?

Oscar has been a joy to work with. He constantly pushes us to find all sides to our characters and go into real detail as to who we are playing and what drives them. The depth that Oscar has delved into this play really shows how much he cares about this play and his work and I find that amazing.

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to see The Sugar Syndrome?

To anyone who was thinking about coming to see The Sugar Syndrome, I would say it is totally worth it! The play explores some heavy subjects so I would want people to be mindful of this. Everything within in this play is very real and has no holds barred which I believe is a great thing. Anyone who watches this play will really be able to feel the emotions and thought of every character throughout their journeys and that is what Theatre is all about!

Main Image: Ali Barouti in THE SUGAR SYNDROME Orange Tree Theatre photo by The Other Richard

Greg is an award-winning writer with a huge passion for theatre. He has appeared on stage, as well as having directed several plays in his native Scotland. Greg is the founder and editor of Theatre Weekly


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