Writer: Neil Anthony Docking
Director: Maxine Evans
Reviewer: Tom Ralphs
In 1966 in Aberfan in Wales, 150,000 tonnes of waste from a coal mine gave way causing the deaths of 116 schoolchildren and 28 others at the local school. Several months later a Revlon saleswoman arrives to sell make up at the weekly meeting of bereaved mothers. Based on a true story, The Revlon Girl combines humour and heartbreak in equal measure, and is that rare beast at the Fringe, a traditional play that stands on the quality of the script, acting and directing, rather than anything controversial or provocative.
Antonia Kinlay plays the Revlon Girl greeted in the village hall by Sian, played by Charlotte Gray, one of the mothers who lost her child in the disaster. Gray’s delivery, and Neil Anthony Docking’s script, captures the vulnerability and pride of her character, eager to be helpful and polite while at the same time worrying what people might say about the fancy car parked outside.
Three further women arrive, beginning with Michelle McTernan’s wonderfully nervous Marilyn, who believes the disaster had been foretold and is racked with guilt for failing to act on the warnings. The brash Rona, played by Bethan Thomas, comes next, her defiant breeziness hinting at an anger that emerges, when Jean, played by Zoe Harrison, arrives and the subject of the swimming pool built from donations to the disaster appeal is raised.
The beauty of the script and performances is how the minutiae of lives lived in the shadow of a tragedy is captured in the smallest sentence or slightest gesture. The only wrong turns are Rona’s monologue that goes beyond what is needed to convey her feelings, and the Revlon Girl’s revelation that shifts the focus from the main story. These aside, the production is almost a masterclass in creating real life drama.
Runs until 28 August 2017 | Image: Cyril Preddy