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  • Dress Circle Reviews

Sweat - Review

Updated: Sep 28, 2019

You wouldn’t expect a play set in 2000 to explain the current political situation with barely a mention of politics but that is what this play manages to do. Sweat is set in an industrial town in the US state of Pennsylvania and is focused on the relationships and friendships between people who work in the same factory. These relationships become strained when one of the friends gets a promotion into the offices. This is put under more pressure when the factory replaces the processes with easier machines and attempt to reduce the workforce and reduce wages.

It feels like a typical industrial town where people work in the factory because they knew people who worked there. Some characters are the third generation of their family to work in the same factory but the threat of de-industrialisation is ever present as they discuss options outside the factory and discuss other factories which had already closed. Throughout the play there is latent tension, created from the opening scene. We are individually introduced to two characters in a flash forward scene as they leave prison and they discuss their future plans. So throughout we are looking for what led them to that point.

There are a couple of clever times where politics are mentioned such as the republican primary debates being mentioned or where someone mentioned they won’t vote. These moments highlighted the limited political engagement there was and how they would react if they felt people were talking directly to them rather than politics being seen as something meaningless in a different place that didn’t impact them.

The script was excellent, drawing you in from the start and making you want to know more about these characters and their stories. The lead women in particular were sharply drawn, learning about their past, their experiences and their ambitions, these ambitions being for both themselves and their families. The play also shines a spotlight on how friendships are impacted by external forces that people can’t control. The raw emotion of the characters was brought to life by stunning performances throughout.

The play stands out as a reflection of how people were impacted then and how many towns have been impacted in a similar way since 2000. It also helps humanise impacts that have often been detailed only as numbers. Where people don’t feel they have control of certain things in their life they look for what they can control and where they can excerpt power, sometimes with devastating consequences.

Sweat is compelling, smart, emotional and relevant. It is one of this years must see pieces of theatre and we urge you to catch one of it’s 50 performances. This gets 5 Laura Michelle-Kelly stars. Tickets are available here:


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