“I get nowhere, unless the team wins,” says Robert De Niro, just before he smashes the head of his minion with a baseball bat. With this iconic film clip from The Untouchables Sugar de l’eau kicks off: the performance of the Artez graduates. But this play has nothing to do with mobsters and wiseguys.
The term ‘Sugar de l’eau’ is a rough translation of ‘sugar water’. A term that arose during the group’s night out in Belgium. “Everybody had obviously been drinking way too much,” says Tobias Nierop, the actor who came up with the title. Sugar water helps against being drunk. “It gets you back to reality.”
In Sugar de l’eau, the actors present themselves like they would when going out for a night of partying. When you go out, you present yourself the way you want to be liked. To the best of your ability.
The graduating actors present themselves on stage, like a group of friends, with good team spirit, ready to go out for a night of mindless drinking. Who they are as individuals is being determined by their behaviour as a group. The party begins, as usual, at home. Plans are being made: “Tonight we go get … Totally fucked up!”
They play a silly game of Who am I? Everyone puts a note on their heads with the name of a famous celebrity. The blond girl is Meryl Streep. “Am I a good actress?” She asks her friends. The reactions are mixed. “Well, I think she is,” says another. A second one responds: “If you like pathetic, yes.” A third one mentions: “I think she’s very versatile.”
Any uncertainties about their own future as performers in these times of cutbacks are quickly blow over by spewing personal branding mantra’s: You can be whoever you decide to be. You are the project into your own human project – self promotion slogans used to camouflage the real you, just like dressing up before going out on the town. A boy talks to a girl in the disco. She wears a black latex top and blue tights. “I want to know who you are, when you are all alone,” he tells her. When no one is watching.
When they finally are ready to go out, everything falls apart. Ultimately everyone ends up drunk on the floor. When you have nothing to escape from, you can only live in the moment – is their conclusion.
Sugar de l’eau gracefully shows the uncomfortable and hilarious balance between group dynamics and individuality. It presents the students – as themselves – in socially awkward situations. Where who you really are is always hidden, even from your friends and classmates.