When Sweat opened at the Donmar Warehouse in the latter end of 2018 – it received flawless responses from critics and audiences alike. The Observer called it “the years most powerful play” and The Guardian’s Michael Billington calling it a “breathtaking new play”. With this overwhelming reaction to the show demand was always going to be high for tickets, when coupled with the intimate setting of the Donmar’s space, we theatre lovers resigned to the fact that we not be given the chance to see this production. Our prayers however were answered and it is going on for a mere fifty performances in London’s Gielgud theatre from 7th June – 20th July. We here at theatretickets.london were lucky enough to see it and cannot urge you enough to get your tickets for this truly spectacular play.
Set mostly within an American Bar in Reading Pennsylvania – we follow the lives of the factory workers coming and going from ‘Mikes Tavern’. As racial tensions rise and this community of workers is left to deal with the division that comes with de-industrialisation, moral compasses are tested and friendships are put to the test.
The set itself is simple but very effective. The regular nature of the bar seems to parallel the stagnancy of the lives of the workers who frequent it throughout the production – this however does not remove any substance from the atmosphere it creates. The bar feels lived in, drank in, the phrase “if these walls could talk” speaks volumes for the bar, and while simple, feels warm and inviting until things begin to sour throughout the play. This simplicity also allows for the projection of news items onto the screen above the bar, allowing us to track the political and social landscape at the time, and how it will come to affect the characters within the show. The way the news articles are projected above the bar, seems to suggest how the political decisions being made higher up, trickles down to affect the people at the bottom of the social hierarchy the worst – making for intense viewing as events transpire following to disintegration of the political world.
For the patrons who frequent this bar and the actors portraying them it is hard to single out a particular performance within this show as stand out – in that they all are. The chemistry between characters is warm, charming and beautiful, whether said characters are conflicting with one another or embracing in loving affection. It is made clear from the outset that it is the kind of bar where everyone knows everyone, and the cast do a brilliant job of showing this. The different dynamics each character brings be it their own unique way make for intriguing viewing, as every encounter brings something that feels organic and authentic every single time. Which makes it all the more heartbreaking when division and resentment sets in towards the latter half of the play.
The Direction and writing of this show are likewise with everything else, astounding. Nottage’s script feels real – like real conversations that real people would have, without losing any interest or stakes. We as the audience care about these people, and feel almost a part of their circle – Linton’s direction only works to give more emphasis to this, and it is a thing of beauty to watch.
With just 50 performances of this astounding play, we cannot urge you enough to see it.
Get your tickets now at theatretickets.london.