On Tuesday I was lucky enough to attend a performance of Sweat at the Gielgud Theatre* thanks to Official London Theatre – the largest not-for-profit ticket organisation in London encouraging people to experience the West End.
Based on real-life interviews with various residents of Pennsylvania, Sweat details the impact of the industrial decline on factory workers. Relationships, racial tensions and betrayal are all key themes throughout the play showing the troubling time that the people of Reading had to go through during the de-industrialisation of America.
Sweat takes place in 2000, when residents were living comfortably. Each generation would end up working in the steel-tube factory which offered a sense of security with a comfortable wage and other benefits. That is until everything changed…
The play leads with a parole officer speaking with two ex-convicts, Jason and Chris. It then goes back to years earlier to show how the two individuals ended up in the position they are currently in.
Following the relationship between best friends Cynthia and Tracey, who have both worked on the factory floor for over 20 years, we see their relationship struggle as they compete for a supervisor role, in which Cynthia is successful. Tracey is unhappy and unsupportive of this, suggesting that Cynthia only got the role due to her race.
From here, things continually spiral as America experiences the hardships of de-industrialisation. Cynthia brings the bad news that the factory expects all workers to take a 60% pay cut, which then results in workers being locked out as their union fails to help them.
Tensions rise as workers are left unemployed with no job prospects and struggling to meet ends meet. Which then goes on to explain the act of violence that shows how Jason and Chris ended up in prison.
Quite honestly, Sweat was so much more than I expected it to be. It was totally gripping in the way it was directed and each character showed their hardships. The acting was absolutely incredible with such moving performances from each cast member. I cannot recommend it enough… but you only have until 20th July to go see it!
*I was kindly gifted tickets for Sweat from Official London Theatre.