Review: Sweat at The Tower Theatre Stoke Newington

Sweat at The Tower Theatre

Sweat at The Tower Theatre - Credit: Archant

A dynamic staging of Lynn Nottage’s play about the “de-industrial revolution” of an American city is a character-driven drama with social commentary

Sweat at The Tower Theatre

Sweat at The Tower Theatre - Credit: Archant

Running at the Tower Theatre until March 7 this dynamic staging of Lynn Nottage's 2015 play about the "de-industrial revolution" of an American city, examines the human cost when a factory town suffers the destruction of an industry which has been its backbone.

We are in Reading, Pennsylvania in the year 2000 and the fallout for the community of this declining steeltown is widesped.

Nottage deftly delivers an engaging character-driven drama with a subtle undercurrent of social commentary. The success of Ian Hoare's production lies in both excellent staging and acting, including Isaiah Bobb-Semple who stands out as Chris, a young man caught between familial tradition and the desire to carve his own path.

Playing opposite his real-life father Richard, Bobb-Semple displays a subtlety of delivery and nuanced performance that belies his age.


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Both are excellent in the play and their shared scenes are among the most electrifying and engaging.

Among its most impressive aspects is the play's even-handed discussion of racism and immigration, presented in a way that welcomes the audience to consider multiple points of view, as opposed to the shallow moralising and patronising finger-wagging of some productions.

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As the husband of a Pennsylvanian (and frequent visitor to the state), I was also impressed with set designer Wendy Parry's care and attention to detail in replicating a working-class bar in a minimalist way - even down to the sports memorabilia paying homage to Joe Frazier, Jim Baumer, and the fictional yet adored Rocky Balboa, it feels authentically "working-class Philly suburbs."

As a theatre space, The Tower is superb, and has fast become one of my favorite stage-spaces in London. Sweat is a fine play under any circumstances, but I can't imagine a better venue or cast with which to experience it.

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