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These Shining Lives – Park Theatre, London

Writer: Melanie Marnich

Director: Loveday Ingram

Reviewer: Antoinette Stott

[rating:3]

These-Shining-LivesThe play tracks the life of married mother Catherine Donohue and her three friends who find themselves and their freedom in the workplace and how their happiness is gradually overset by the ill health that results from working at the watch factory, resulting from poisoning which the company heads knew about but concealed from their workers. Quite simply it is a story about women in the twenties and thirties finding a way to emancipate themselves through work and friendship and learning to fight for their own rights.

It’s a sweet play, sentimental more than political, focused more on women who didn’t want to rock the boat they just wanted to be treated honestly. It’s about big business sticking it to the littlest guy, women who had the least rights at the time, but how their bravery and support of each other changed legal history

However while the actors sparkle with verve and talent, their interactions genuine, it is the writing that lets the play down. Of the four girls in the group only two are ever sketched beyond two dimensional stereotypes and the play, while interesting, is never surprising – the moment the macguffin is introduced the audience knows exactly where the story is leading. One could say that while the story is about brave women the story is never bravely told.

Charity Wakefield is radiant as Catherine; she holds our attention effortlessly throughout, her performance is never showy or dramatic merely honest and all the more appealing for it, Alec Newman stood out as Catherine’s husband Tom, and their chemistry was what made the play for me, Honeysuckle Weeks almost stole the show however with her portrayal of brash and suggestive Charlotte, she made me want to know more about her, made me want to see what happens when Charlotte goes home.

Loveday Ingram, the director has produced a charming play, the action energetic and alive, and with little set and props she managed to fully evoke through set pieces and music the flavour and character of the people and the times they lived in. While the story isn’t particularly bold or different the way it’s put together still holds your attention and makes you want to know its characters. The complaint is that the story is obvious, but the direction and acting are captivating enough to keep you seated wanting to see how it unfolds.

Photo: Alastair Muir

Runs until 9th June

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