Sweat is an intriguing and thought-provoking play that for me explores two key themes. The first is individualism vs collectivism. This theme is prevalent in the character arcs of Cynthia and Oscar. Cynthia, who receives a promotion to management after working on the factory floor for 23 years, struggles to maintain her position as manager, keep her job, and reap the benefits of her hard work to provide for herself. Her loyalty to her son and to her friend, Tracey, is tested as they are engaged in a prolonged strike against the management who have cut their wages. The play questions what kind of loyalty is more important, loyalty to one’s self or loyalty to a collective. On the other hand, US-Columbian Oscar, desperately wants a job in the factory and once the strike starts, he gets a temporary job much to the dismay of the other workers who then refer to him as a ‘scab’. Yet, Oscar embodies individualism commenting that ’I’m sorry but I’ve got to put myself first’. However, despite this trait often being described negatively, Nottage’s writing managed to make me feel sympathetic to Oscar after he suffers physical attacks and discrimination. I questioned whether collectivism is really more noble than individualism as they, as a collective, acted with expressed hostility towards Oscar.
“ The play questions what kind of loyalty is more important, loyalty to one’s self or loyalty to a collective.”
The second theme displayed in Sweat was class conflict and how the working-class suffer at the hands of the middle and upper class due to a lack of options. The capitalist nature of the factory created a rift between the two friends Tracey and Cynthia – this rift is evidence of how capitalism drives things apart. This usually has a negative impact on the working class as they are forced to choose between friendships and their place in the community or financial gain. This made me think that no matter how hard you try you will always be faced with a choice between money and happiness. The play illustrates that capitalist society is built on a desire to make money no matter the cost, this is an interesting theme as many in today’s western society question the morality of absolute capitalism. Overall, the play is a wonderful piece of theatre that exposes two themes prevalent in today’s society and I found it both intriguing and enjoyable.