Sharp, witty look at life for women in politics

New play Steel, by Sheffield writer Chris Bush, looks at the Labour Party and if life has changed for women activists over the past 30 years.

That might make it sound very intense and possibly not for you, but this production at the Crucible Studio is a sharp, witty and beautifully observed piece of writing brought wonderfully to life by a cast of two and director Rebecca Frecknall.

Rebecca Scroggs plays two parts. The first is earnest young steel trade union activist Josie, talent spotted by one of the party old guard and asked if she wants to run as a councillor. The second, Vanessa, is a political big hitter fresh from Westminster, an ex-MP who returns to her home city to get elected as its first metro mayor. 

Nigel Betts plays voluble Dai in 1988 and harassed election officer Ian in 2018. Scenes switch between the two stories, drawing parallels.

There’s a lot of fantastic comedy, including the type of word play from TV shows like In the Thick of It, in the Vanessa sections and inspired visual humour when Josie overthinks her interview to become a councillor.

But the action turns on a sixpence, with a heart-wrenching #metoo scene in 1988 and drama as the 2018 campaign begins to come apart.