Company of Ten triumph with Widows at the Abbey Theatre, St Albans

THERE is something of the Greek tragedy about the latest production by the Company of Ten, Ariel Dorfman’s powerful play Widows.

It stems from the chorus of widows at its heart who, by the conclusion of the play, have become one entity intent on finding out what happened to their menfolk in a brutal coup and seeking justice.

But it is also there in the narrator – albeit seen mostly on screen – and the military overlords whose patience with the women soon runs out.

Widows is a moving play – it was written by Dorfman about his home country of Chile which he left in exile following the coup led by Augusto Pinochet – but it could apply to any country where a tranche of grieving women are left searching for answers about the disappearance of their menfolk.

It focuses on grandmother Sofia Fuentes who waits daily by the river for her missing father, husband and sons. At first a figure of contempt to many of the other women, who have also lost their menfolk, her dedication to her daily task eventually permeates the lives of all of them.

Widows is being performed in the Abbey Theatre Studio and it is testament to the skill of director Philip Reardon and his team that it works as well as it does.

Key impressions such as the river itself are shown on screen and while a couple of the video projections are a bit obscure, their use and that of a raised stage at one end of the Studio worked well.

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The play has some strong performances, not least Roger Scales as the Captain and Simon Gibson as the Lieutenant, the first initially sympathetic to the women, the latter afraid that questions about the missing men will lead back to him.

The women, led by Margaret Metcalf’s compelling Sofia, are uniformly excellent and work well as a team.

Particularly powerful are the scenes when bodies are washed up from the river and the women try to claim them as their own without any proper means of identification.

Keith Davey, both as the narrator on screen and in one scene where he walks across the stage, brings another level of poignancy to a fine production but one which is not for the faint-hearted – there are a few half-hearted laughs but basically Widows is a serious play with a very serious message.

It runs until Saturday and tickets can be obtained from the box office on 01727 857861 or online at