The Revlon Girl will break your heart, mend it momentarily with warm, bountiful humour, and then break your heart all over again. Based on a very real disaster, it’s an emotionally charged exploration of the way in which catastrophic events can impact a person’s relationship with their community and with themselves.
In 1966, a colliery spoil tip collapse in Aberfan resulted in the death of 116 children and 28 adults. A group of bereaved mothers began to meet on a weekly basis, and – a few months later – they invited a Revlon representative to talk to them about makeup. The arrival of Charlotte, The Revlon Girl, is supposed to offer the women a distraction; her suitcase full of cosmetics is intended to make the grieving mothers feel a little bit more like themselves. The visit doesn’t necessarily go as planned – but it does prompt several important discussions about the women’s hopes, fears, and how they’re dealing with grief.
The characters in the play each have their own quirks, not to mention a profound depth about them. There’s the eager-to-please Sian; the foul-mouthed and fiery Rona; the superstitious Marilyn, who believes residents of Aberfan were forewarned about the disaster; and Jean, a regular churchgoer. There’s also Charlotte, who has her own story to tell. The performers take on these roles with an awe-inspiring zeal – the portrayals of the five women are stunning, and each character embodies bravery and strength in the face of adversity.
The Revlon Girl’s script manages to be tender, devastating and hilarious, all at once. The show really is consistently funny – especially since certain characters are fluent in razor-sharp quips. The writing takes a poignantly political turn, too: it asks questions about money, and demands to know why the Aberfan disaster wasn’t prevented.
The Revlon Girl is based on the true story of the women who battled to move forward in the aftermath of tragedy. It’s a wonderfully performed, well-written show that packs a massive emotional punch, particularly during the raw speeches from the characters Rona and Sian. A marvellous piece of theatre worthy of so much praise.
Words: Morgan Laing
Photo: Cyril Preddy
The Revlon Girl, Assembly Roxy, Aug 23-28, 1pm