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Review Round-up: Bright outlook for These Shining Lives?

By • West End

Loveday Ingram's production of These Shining Lives, the inaugural production at the newly built Park Theatre, opened this week (15 May 2013).

Melanie Marnich's play, set in the 1920’s, focuses on the lives two female factory workers and their quest to secure rights for women. A catastrophe sweeps the factory, putting this into perspective.

These Shining Lives stars Alec Newman, Charity Wakefield and Honeysuckle Weeks and runs at the Park Theatre until 9 June 2013.

Michael Coveney
Whatsonstage
★★★★

...Jez Bond's splendid new neighbourhood theatre looks like a metro destination, too, with its Donmar-style auditorium, buzzy bar and sleek glass and brick design… Donohue – pertly and bewitchingly well played by Charity Wakefield… The atmosphere crackles with good humour as well as the radium, and Loveday Ingram’s smart production finds plenty of light in the shadow… The cast moves nimbly around the intimate stage area… The well-equipped little venue has a good lighting system, too, cleverly exploited by Rob Casey, and the corresponding male quartet of “baddies” – including employers, and the doctor who smokescreens the problem as “women talk,” prescribing aspirin - is nicely pointed by David Calvitto.

Michael Billington
Guardian
★★★★

...The opening show is more notable for its political timeliness than its dramatic subtlety… At a time when rightwingers regularly mock health and safety regulations, the play offers a potent reminder of the need to protect workers from exploitation. Marnich is a bit too much in awe of her heroine… Charity Wakefield avoids making Catherine too saintly by emphasising her frisky sexiness… Honeysuckle Weeks as a deep-drinking, hard-living colleague and Alec Newman as Catherine's macho husband lend assured support, and Loveday Ingram's zippy production looks handsome in Tim Shortall's design, with its projections of Chicago's majestic skyscapes. It's not a play of great nuance, but it gets this new venture off to an appropriately shining start.

Henry Hitchings
Evening Standard
★★★

The main space at this smart new Finsbury Park venue gets off to a bright start... It’s touching, even if not completely radiant. Charity Wakefield is transfixing in the lead role… Alongside her on the production line are fiery Charlotte (Honeysuckle Weeks), Melanie Bond’s morally charged Frances and Nathalie Carrington’s Pearl with her love of corny jokes… Director Loveday Ingram ensures that this portrait of exploitation isn’t mawkish. The production is both simple and sensitive, with a neat design by Tim Shortall… What’s missing from the writing, though, is any element of surprise… Still, the strong performances and lucid staging seem a healthy indication of what to expect from Park Theatre… And Wakefield is genuinely luminous.

Charles Spencer
Telegraph
★★★

...If the theatre is first class, the opening show only deserves a 2:2… The problem with the play is that we can guess what’s going to happen as soon as we learn that the factory workers clothes and skin glow in the dark… The issue of workers’ safety has become urgently topical following the terrible garment factory disaster in Bangladesh which supplied British firms with cut-price clothing… this is a story that cries out for the moral indignation and dramatic power of Arthur Miller rather than Melanie Marnich’s wispy, whimsical script… There are fine performances though, especially from Charity WakefieldLoveday Ingram’s production niftily captures the atmosphere of Chicago in the jazz age and the piece is stylishly designed by Tim ShortallThese Shining Lives may not be a perfect start to this admirable new venue, but I have a strong hunch that the Park will progress to greater glories.

Libby Purves
The Times
★★★★

Far from Daisy’s dock, the industrial boom of 1920s America is the theme of Melanie Marnich’s play, rewritten for this British premiere… Wakefield has a lovely mild natural sweetness… This grim industrial tale reminds us of asbestosis, dioxins and now Rana Plaza. So does the women’s legal battle, defying the community and the media who back the big employer. They win, just in time to die. Yet the lyrical humanity of the writing, and Weeks and Wakefield’s performances, achieve a final grace. A fine start for Jez Bond’s bold new 200-seat producing theatre near Finsbury Park station. It could fly.


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