Anne-Marie Duff plays the matriarch of the family over half a century. She has born three children with the youngest Laura (Emma Shipp) still at school. Her husband Alistair is a trade union shop steward and tells us that in 1965 half the working population are in a trade union. In 2017 this percentage had fallen by more than half to 23.3%. In the 1980s Margaret Thatcher has demolished trade union power with legislation against secondary picketing and the defeat of the miners’ strike in 1984/5.
Set in Reading, Pennsylvania,Sweat looks at blue collar workers in America and how after years of toiling for the same company they lose their jobs to cheaper labour, from immigrant communities within the United States, or to the residents of Mexico. Reading is a steel town and like Sheffield, in the 1997 film The Full Monty, is one which finds it is losing jobs to cheaper producers abroad. Of course what Lynn Nottage is cleverly documenting is the reason behind the political success of Donald Trump in the 2016 election with the support of blue collar Americans.