The “gut girls” were a rowdy bunch of women who worked in the gross gutting sheds of early 1900 England. Their job was to cut out the entrails of animals after they were slaughtered to ready them for the butcher. The disgusting, dirty work was degrading and physically demanding under a relentlessly demanding boss (“The only thing worse than being a gut girl is being a whore”).
But they were happy and fiercely loyal to each other, drinking and swearing like men and eschewing bloomers for outrageous hats. Most importantly to them, the pay was far better than any other job for women, which allowed them to be free and independent.
This play by Sarah Daniels explores the true story of these Victorian-era working girls and shows what happens when social reformer Lady Helena attempts to tame them.
Sorry fellas, but the women carry this show. You all have to go back to acting school. The women playing the gut girls bring a sense of camaraderie and humor to their roles. You feel their kinship and shared plight. Most impressive is Alicia C. Leeper. She’s got the accent down and her Kate is more believable than the others.
Kati Oltyan is outstanding as the nervous Priscilla, a genteel woman married to an abusing man who forces her to assist Lady Helena. Her husband has made her afraid of her own shadow, and she shows it well.
Spark Theater is an intimate space with audience seating along two walls with the action in the center and ends of the room. It works well for this play, which doesn’t require an elaborate set. Just a few steel knives, a couple of meat cleavers and blood spattered aprons paint the picture just fine.
The Gut Girls runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. through November 9. (There will be no shows on October 31 and November 1) Tickets are $15-$20. Call 720-346-7396 or visit www.sparktheater.org. Spark Theater is at 985 Santa Fe Drive in Denver, CO 80204.