‘Sweat’ – described by The Observer in 2018 as “the year’s most powerful play” is an emotionally explosive portrayal of the cataclysmic effect of globalisation on a manufacturing community. Written by African-American playwright Lynn Nottage (www.lynnnottage.com), Sweat is by general critical consent one of the finest playwrights working in English today.
Sweat focuses on the struggles engulfing a diverse group of steel workers in Reading, Pennsylvania (‘Rust Belt’), one of the very poorest cities in the USA. Lay-offs and picket lines tear apart close friendships and family ties in the build-up to the devastating global financial crisis of 2008. At the heart of Nottage’s excellent drama are the lives and stories of two women, Cynthia and Tracey. Both are working-class Americans – one black, the other white; and the play breaks the mould for social realism by focusing on female friendship to explore the devastating impact of economic catastrophe on deep emotional ties and young people’s hopes.
Nottage is the only woman to have won two Pulitzer Prizes for drama. The first was awarded in 2009 for Ruined, a play about the use of rape as a weapon of war in the Congo conflict, largely based on Brecht’s Mother Courage. The second was for Sweat.
The citation read: “A nuanced yet powerful drama that reminds audiences of the stacked deck still facing workers searching for the American dream.” And the critic Jonathan Mandell argued that it was a Grapes of Wrath for our time, telling its story of social breakdown “not with rants or statistics, but through a riveting tale about good people in a bad situation.”