Nambour theatre group’s Australian-first performance runs the gamut of emotions

 

by SEANNA CRONIN

 

A true story of grief and resilience in the wake of an unimaginable but preventable tragedy comes to life on stage in The Lind’s latest production.

The Nambour theatrical society’s production of The Revlon Girl, which debuts on April 22, is set in the aftermath of the Aberfan disaster.

In October 1966 a coal mine waste tip collapsed in the Welsh mining village, killing 144 people including 116 children from the Pantglas Junior School.

Neil Anthony Docking’s Olivier Award-nominated play, which was written to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the disaster, tells the real-life story of a group of bereaved mothers who gather initially to protest about the National Coal Board’s negligence. 

In turn, they rally support for each other at weekly get-togethers in the function room above the Aberfan Hotel, where they can laugh, cry and comfort each other in private, away from judgment. 

At one of their meetings, the women admit how much they felt they have let themselves go.

Afraid people would think them frivolous, they secretly arrange for a Revlon makeup consultant from Bristol to come and give them a talk on beauty tips.

“Yes the mining disaster is the background story, but this play is not about the doom and gloom,” director Glenda Campi tells the Sunny Coast Times.

“The Revlon girl volunteers to come give them a nice evening to look after themselves, but we find out that she has her own story that develops further in the evening.

“Sure there are moments of sadness but it’s beautifully done. The play has really great fun moments in it and it shows the strength of Welsh people.”

Glenda, who is also The Lind president, came across the play by chance last year while working on another Lind production.

“We did the play Terra Nova, which is the story of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott’s dash to the South Pole. I got in contact with the great-grandson of (petty officer) Edgar Evans, who is Welsh. I’d been invited onto their community Facebook page and that’s how I found the play (The Revlon Girl),” she says. 

“There’s so much heart in a production done from a real story. To this day, 55 years later, the mothers’ group is still going. It’s a support network that’s kept them going.”

The Lind is the first community theatre group in Australia to perform The Revlon Girl. 

During her preparations for the show, Glenda has been surprised to discover how many Coast residents have a connection to the Aberfan disaster.

“Within our own theatre group we had people saying their father was one of the loggers who brought the caravans down for the people who lost their homes,” she says.

“I’ve spoken to other people who’d lost cousins or their father was one of the ones digging in the slag trying to find the children. I’m finding there are people who are still affected by it.

“All those stories make us realise the world is a very small place.”

The poignant and cathartic drama features a small core cast of actors who portray five different women all dealing with grief in their own way.

“I feel like I have a good connection with people and can work out what role suits them best,” Glenda says.

“Christine Lynn, who has never performed at The Lind before, sounds like she’s just out of Wales. She plays Rona, who’s quite a fiery, brash character.

“Robyn Hungerford, who last performed with us some years ago, plays Jean and the role fits her perfectly. I know she is honoured to be able to represent her Welsh grandfather.”

The Revlon Girl is The Lind’s first production of the year after the reopening of the state’s border and the subsequent wave of the Omicron variant scuttled plans for a February production. 

But it will take more than a pandemic to slow down the amateur company, which is now in its 76th year. 

Established in 1945 and originally known as Nambour Amateur Theatrical Society, the society operated for many years without a permanent home before the current Mitchell St theatre was built in 1980.  

“Last year we managed to do a full year of six productions. We were only affected by one reschedule,” Glenda says.

“At the start of this year we tried to put on three one-act plays but some people got Covid, then we had the floods. I feel this year is going to be really messy but we still plan to put on six productions in 2022.”

 

The Revlon Girl plays a strictly limited season at Nambour’s Lind Lane Theatre from April 22-30. For tickets and more information visit lindlane.com.au or phone 1300 732 764.

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