I can clearly remember, as a young child, watching on television the horror of the Aberfan Disaster on 21st October 1966, when 116 children and 28 adults were killed as a result of a colliery tip sliding down the mountain and engulfing the village school. So, when I saw that this play, The Revlon Girl, was set in Aberfan some eight months after the disaster, I was curious to see how this would be handled.
The play started off seeming to be a fairly light-hearted comedy, which immediately had me thinking “oh, no”, but it soon became clear that the comedy was simply the way some of the women who had lost children in the disaster had of dealing with things and trying to hide their intense grief.
The Revlon Girl of the title had been invited along to a room in the local hotel, to give a talk and demonstration to the women of Aberfan, in a bid to try and cheer them up and help to improve their morale. Four of the women have arrived early, so she agrees to give them a private preview of what she plans to do. Despite her best intentions, the talk inevitably turns to loss and grief, and the women argue amongst themselves as to who was responsible and how the money from the Disaster Fund should be spent.
Throughout the play, we learn more about the four women – Sian, Rhonda, Marilyn and Jean – and how their losses have affected them. We also discover that The Revlon Girl, who has come from Bristol and is obviously from a different background and class to the women from a mining village, has more in common with them than they could have imagined.
Although specifically about the aftermath of the Aberfan Disaster, the play deals with the universal themes of loss, grief and trying to move on. This is a very powerful and well-written play, with moving performances from all five women.
Review by Lisa Sibbald