‘Radium Girls’ is a true, gripping drama by the award-winning playwright from Washington DC, D.W. Gregory. The New York Times called this ‘a playwright with a talent to enlighten and provoke.’ ‘Radium Girls’ is among the 10 Most Produced Plays in American High School Theatre. Ms Gregory’s plays frequently explore political issues through a personal lens and with a comedic twist.
The season runs on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from Friday 14th until the 29th of October. There are matinées on Sundays at 2.00 pm. Catch this moving true story at The Old Mill Theatre, Corner Mends Street and Mill Point Road, (Opposite the Windsor Hotel) in South Perth
The two-and-a-half-hour performances have curtain up at 7.30 pm
The Scene: New Jersey in the mid-1920s. The actual problem ran from 1917 to 1942.
The set design: Ellis R. Kinnear has kept it simple. With so many locations, full scene changes would have killed the pace.
Set construction: Ellis R. Kinnear, Sacha Emeljanow, Alex Comstock, and Jason Dohle have made a tall, small-paned window overlooking a blank wall of the adjoining building.
Sound design: In the four years since Sacha Emeljanow started Curtin Uni, she has tackled most aspects of theatre, all with notable success.
Lighting design and operation: John Woolrych at his best.
Stage manager: Sacha Emeljanow. Most scenes have symbolic or token props, so despite there being 26 scenes in the play, every scene change takes a mere 5 seconds. Great planning and instant movement when the lights go down at the end of each scene.
Wardrobe: Merri Ford has conquered the era beautifully, from the news reporters’ garb to the bosses’ suits, from the workers’ aprons to their Sunday best.
Promotion photography and programme: Great work by Rosalyn Anderson
In 1926, Grace Fryer (Abbey McCaughan – fabulous), is working in a factory making aircraft instruments. She and her two best friends, Kathryn Schaub (Georgina Teakle) and Irene Rudolph (Alexandra D’Ulisse) are painters. They put the luminous paint dots on the dials of night fighters and luminous watches. When some of the girls get severe mouth ulcers or feminine problems, their complaints are dismissed as poor hygiene or loose living by the factory’s doctor.
The well-respected owner of the company, Dr Sabin Von Sochoky (Jason Dohle – powerful) suspects that there is another cause, the radium paint they work with. So, becoming sick himself, he sells the company to Arthur Roeder (Brett Hamilton – quite detestable) a ruthless capitalist, with a tough staff supervisor, Mrs MacNeil (Audrey Poor).
The staff continue to have health problems, so Madame Curie (Carmen Dohle) is invited to tell them how radium actually cures cancer and definitely does not cause it. Tom (Alex Comstock) Grace’s boyfriend believes in the benefits of radium.
Grace is soon plagued by the local journalists (Alli Huefner, Alex Comstock) needing a big story.
The Company’s lawyer, Bailey (Travis Koch) warns of massive trouble brewing. Miss Katherine Wiley (Daniela Barbosa) a Civil Rights supporter and defender of the little man calls to see Grace.
Who will win?
This story starts quite slowly as the scene is being set, but with a great deal of skill the director – Ellis R Kinnear – and his strong cast, gradually increase the pace. The tension rises and more workers’ problems come to light. We see Abbey – as Grace in a most moving performance – as she becomes more disabled. Heart-rending.
Soon the newspapers and the lawyers are like vultures fighting over a dying corpse. Towards the end of the play, the suspense and frustration were stunningly portrayed.
There were no small parts, everyone had to be portrayed with conviction and power. Many of the actors had two or more characters, with different attitudes and accents; this was no barrier, they just slipped from a quiet caring individual to a loud heartless person within seconds.
A challenging play to stage and on a topic that may not sound interesting in comparison to today’s business, but it is riveting. Based a hundred years ago, with the workers’ rights and meddling newspapers, it could easily have been last week. Nothing changes.