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Review: These Shining Lives

Park Theatre, London N4

    North London’s newest theatre, just a stone’s throw from Finsbury Park tube, is already being hailed as a miracle — and no wonder. The £2.5m build costs have been met without a penny of subsidy.

    And with two performance spaces, the place has the feel of a serious venue capable of attracting equally serious talent. Maureen Lipman is slated to perform there in July in Oliver Cotton’s new play Daytona.

    The theatre’s inaugural production is a worthy offering in both senses of the word. Written by Melanie Marnich, the play, first seen in Baltimore in 2008, tells the true story of a group of Chicago women factory workers whose job was to paint luminous clock and watch faces. They were given good wages and, it later emerged, fatal radium poisoning.

    Loveday Ingram’s well-acted production lifts some solid, if at times stolid writing. Marnich rather clunkily uses narration as her storytelling technique. Her heroine, Catherine Donohue, quickly transmits that hers is a posthumously told story, which does nothing for the evening’s tension.

    Still, the cast, led by Charity Wakefield as Donohue, strongly evokes the female camaraderie of women workers who had received the right to vote only a decade earlier.

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