By Juliette Dudley, Fourth Year Hispanic Studies
Radium Girls, directed by Nel Crouch and performed by the wonderful actors of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, was an engaging and skilled portrayal of the workers’ fight against the radium poisoning scandal covered up by the US Radium Corporation in New Jersey during the mid-1900s.
The Weston Studio was a fantastic location for the play. The bricked walls and thrust staging meant that, as audience members, we felt like true flies on the wall invited into the factory floor to experience the fear and confusion these women faced.
The audience was completely captured by Ellie Jack’s (as Grace Fryer) compelling performance as we followed her health decline and struggle to be taken seriously by the bosses and doctors who denied her character’s experience. I found her portrayal so emotionally relatable, even to the present day as women still face health care inequality. Jack embodied the strength, pain and betrayal of the collective, fighting for what is right with one of her most notable lines; “I just want what’s owed to me”.
Jack worked seamlessly with actor Kurtis Thompson as her husband (Tom Krieder) and Lucy Pascoe (as Kathryn Schaub). Thompson brought charisma and warmth to the stage, charming the audience with his energy. Pascoe was a standout in the first act, perfectly capturing the fear, desperation and passion of her character. Her enthusiasm hooked the audience from the get-go.
Conor Doran immaculately played the part of Arthur Roeder, president of the US Radium Corporation, capturing completely and effectively the internal struggle between right and wrong, duty and guilt. The energy of his performance allowed him to create meaningful chemistry with Assa Kanouté (as his wife, Diane Roeder) and Christopher Williams (as Charlie Lee). Both Kanouté and Williams must also be praised for their own compelling parts, adding to the intensity of the play’s climax.
All 15 members of the cast, most playing multiple roles, should truly be celebrated for their embodiment and commitment to Gregory’s play, finding the moments of humour to break up the unsettling nature of the plotline.
The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School truly demands credit for this insightful portrayal of the battles of class, gender and workers’ rights.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Juliette Dudley
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