Blue Collar Worker Blues

“You work.  You fight.  You sweat.”


Cast in Skeleton Crew. (Photo: Helen Murray)

It is Detroit in 2008 where the car industry is facing a downturn and rumours fly around about lay offs and redundancies.  In Dominique Morisseau’s 2016 play Skeleton Crew four characters come together in Ultz’s locker lined break room. 

Faye (Pamela Nomvete) has 29 years continuous employment but 30 years will bring a considerable increase in her pension.  Faye is the union rep and knows everyone because she has been there such a long time. Shanita (Racheal Ofori) is in her 20s and pregnant with her first child and needs the security of her job and her maternity leave. 

Dez (Branden Cook) is young, ambitious and has plans for his own business eventually dealing in car parts.  Reggie (Tobi Bamtefa) wears a tie and is a supervisor.  He is the son of Faye’s best friend and owes the start in this factory to her introduction.  Tobi has been given the undisclosed information about the future of the factory jobs.

Pamela Nomvete as Faye. (Photo: Helen Murray)

Dominique Morisseau’s writing and Matthew Xia’s direction are so naturally crafted that we learn everything about this quartet from their dialogue.  There are almost comic moments when Reggie tries to enforce the rules with pre-printed posters on the noticeboards but with added handwritten names of the likely transgressor.  So under a notice that says “No Smoking”,  “Faye!” has been added by hand.  The poster about “No Gambling” is directed at Dez. Shanita is concerned that someone has been using her salad dressing.  Because she is expecting a baby she is taking care of her diet.

We see Dez come in early and put a revolver and some metal parts in his locker, at the same time as the news comes through that materials have been stolen from the factory at night. We think the worst. At each scene change, there is loud musique concrète, noise from the factory production line and silhouetted shifts in the black and white projections above, an image of the clanging of work beyond the break room.  As each worker goes out to rejoin the production line they take reinforced gloves for working with sharp metal. 

Racheal Ofori as Shanita and Branden Cook as Dez (Photo: Helen Murray)

There are unexpected developments to the rule breaking and new enforcement procedures seem to be more strictly applied with workers getting sacked for infringement.  This puts everyone on alert and loyalties will be questioned. Choices have to be made.  Skeleton Crew has a similar theme to Lynne Nottage’s award winning play Sweat  but with very different outcomes. 

I liked Ultz’s believable and detailed workplace set using the whole width of the Donmar stage and full height.  The performances are excellent and Branden Cook is especially impressive as Dez in this, his professional stage debut.  Both women convince, one embarking on a new life, the other adjusting to loss and addiction.  It is no wonder these employees will turn to a regime that offers better employment prospects. 

Tobi Bemtela as Reggie and Pamela Nomvete as Faye (Photo: Helen Murray)

Production Notes

Skeleton Crew

Written by Dominique Morisseau

Directed by Matthew Xia



Pamela Nomvete

Racheal Ofori

Tobi Bamtefa

Branden Cook


Director: Matthew Xia

Set Designer: Ultz

Composer: Nicola T Chang

Movement Director:

Ingrid Mackinnon

Lighting Designer:

Ciarán Cunningham

Sound Director: Nicola T Chang


Running Time: Two hours 25 minutes with an interval

Booking to 24th August 2024


Donmar Warehouse

Earlham Street

Covent Garden

London WC2H 9LX

Tube : Covent Garden


Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge

at the Donmar Warehouse

at the matinée on 6th July 2024