This week’s production of The Revlon Girl is sold out, which is no less than it deserves. An entirely original and largely unexpected take on the tragedy (and aftermath) that happened at Aberfan in 1966, both tone and period are set from the moment we enter the Green Room. Sound, lighting, projections and effects are all superbly realised, as is the set design, and the atmosphere is firmly established from the outset.
To quote from RAODS’ publicity, this is “the real-life story of a group of bereaved mothers who meet every week above a local hotel to talk, cry and even laugh without feeling guilty”. To say more would be to deny audiences the revelations in store, and Neil Anthony Docking’s multi-layered play takes the characters and the audience on an emotionally-charged journey during the course of its tightly packed running time of 90 minutes.
The perceptive and sympathetic script is here brought to life by five superb actresses: Suzanna Tompkins, Chloe Birtles, Michele Arkle, Rachel Tobin and Kate Robbins are individual forces to be reckoned with, and together form a truly extraordinary ensemble. In fairness, I would feel it unfair to single out anyone, since this is a ‘company’ piece through and through, and I would find it difficult to imagine the overall level of acting here being bettered. The performances, like the play, are going to stay with me for a long time, and their skill and ability to involve us, to make us think, empathise, and even on occasion (unbelievable though it might seem) laugh, is something rare and powerful. Director Neil Gwynne has drawn finely detailed work from everyone, and characterisations (not least with regard to specific accents) are entirely convincing. We find ourselves admiring, respecting, and somehow even loving these people, not least because we gradually realise what they don’t – that they are all brave, and that they are all survivors.
Again, to elaborate on the publicity quoted earlier would run the risk of revealing too much. But all those fortunate enough to have tickets this week will experience a piece of theatre beautifully written, directed and performed. I feel very, very privileged to have seen it.