The small Welsh village of Aberfan suffered an enormous tragedy 51 years ago. A colliery waste slip fell and an estimated 150,000 tonnes worth was sitting high up on the mountain. The mountain was high up and above the village, and it tragically slipped down at a rate of 30ft per second. It killed 116 children and 28 adults. In Wales, your neighbours, schoolmates and colleagues and everyone else that you surround yourself with all look after one another and in many ways, you grow up feeling like one huge, extended family. This disaster affected the whole country. To create a play about this tragedy needs the utmost in tact and sensitivity.
The play opens by setting the scene, with a continuous drop of rain coming through the ceiling of their meeting place, in a dark village hall type of setting. A lonely bucket is put out in the middle of the hall to catch the sporadic drips. This represents the rain above them. The gloomy, incessant rain that poured and poured and poured during the week leading up to the disaster.
The Revlon Girl focuses on a group of mothers who meet up 8 months after the tragedy – to talk, cry and discuss life, and of course something that will never leave them – that fateful day. Feeling like they have let themselves go, and in need of a boost, the ladies arrange for a Revlon representative to visit them, to give them a make-over, and make them feel good about themselves. There is something about Welsh mothers that have a certain sense of warmth, humour and realness – and these ladies remind me so much of those mothers that I grew up around. Their characters are all so very different, and they form a somewhat unlikely friendship. I had shivers watching this play. There was real emotion, real depth, real suffering and a real sense of overwhelming empathy.
The ladies think back to that day and they live somewhere paralyzed between that day and the present day, constantly. This is what real trauma feels like, it never really leaves. The dark mood returns like black clouds passing over sunshine. Bethan Thomas who plays Rona gives a mesmerising performance and she had me in tears, I felt everything. Her tough exterior protects her broken heart and her hilarious one-liners dance in and out of the sadness. There is a lot of humour in the play too, which find itself in the difference of personalities of the ladies, and the fact that they know very little about make-up, let alone self-tan, which lends itself to a very hilarious sketch. All five ladies give a heartfelt performance and everybody in the room looked stunned as their passionate performances echoed around the dark set and the Park Theatre.
As the ladies left the stage, they all had real tears in their eyes and they seemed chocked up at the reaction that they deservedly received. In every tragedy, something must be done to keep the spirit and soul alive, and to get through it. This play tries to shine that little glimmer of light, in a very dark tunnel. The people who lost their lives in Aberfan will never be forgotten.
Cast: Charlotte Gray, Zoe Harrison, Antonia Kinlay, Michelle Mcternan and Bethan Thomas Theatre: Park Theatre Writer: Neil Anthony Docking Dates: 19 September until 14th October 2017