Review of Roald Dahl’s wonderful story of Henry Sugar – the ego landed in a joyous adaptation | Theater
IIf you’re looking for narcissism, Rob Drummond offers it in quadruple. Its 1977 adaptation of Roald Dahl short story is a hall of mirrors in which the ego is superimposed on the ego. Our entry point is 14-year-old Mary, played by a bubbly Eve Buglass, whose mission is to crank out single-digit subscribers on her YouTube channel. With an unwavering belief in her own attractiveness, she waits for the likes to arrive while listening to an audiobook.
This brings us to the story of selfish number two, wealthy independent Henry Sugar. Played by a suave and smooth David Rankine, Henry is his own biggest fan. He, too, is reading a book, which brings us to selfish three: Rosalind Sydney’s Jane Cartwright, a doctor hungry for personal fame.
His subject of scientific interest, Johndeep More’s Imhrat Khan, who claims to see with his eyes closed, may seem more modest, but he longs too much to be the center of attention.
These comic grotesques surround themselves in a cheerful production by Ben Harrison who revels in illusions and mind-reading tricks. Imhrat uses magic to put himself in the spotlight; Henry uses it to win at the casino. Their inspiration helps Mary build followers online and the effects, from magic maker Fergus Dunnet, receive repeated applause.
But for all of Drummond’s clever parallels, Harrison’s color and the actors’ bubbly performances, Dahl’s story lacks danger. Egos may be monstrous but they don’t cause much damage. This leaves us with little sense of a problem to solve. And while the characters achieve some sort of enlightenment, it’s because of inner reflection, not dramatic conflict.