Review: A FAMILY BUSINESS, Omnibus Theatre

A poignant and immersive exploration of the human narrative behind the struggle for nuclear disarmament

By: Feb. 26, 2024
Review: A FAMILY BUSINESS, Omnibus Theatre
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Review: A FAMILY BUSINESS, Omnibus Theatre In a world shadowed by the persistent threat of nuclear war, A Family Business presented by China Plate and Staatstheater Mainz, delivers a poignant and immersive exploration of the human narrative behind the struggle for nuclear disarmament. Written and performed by the talented Chris Thorpe, under the deft direction of Claire O'Reilly, and developed with the creative input of Rachel Chavkin and Lekan Lawal, this production captivates from the moment you step into the theatre.

From the outset, theatregoers are enveloped in a sense of community, greeted with warm handshakes and the pulsating beat of "Vamos a la Playa." Thorpe, with charisma, reveals this seemingly incongruous disco tune as "the most upbeat song about nuclear war ever to exist," setting an intriguing tone for the journey ahead. His candid admission of contemplating nuclear weapons more than he probably should initiate a deeply introspective narrative that seamlessly blends Brechtian-style storytelling with an episodic structure.

Throughout the performance, Thorpe maintains an immersive connection with the audience, weaving the narrative of 'The Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons' with two actors portraying characters from it. He then frequently engages in direct dialogue and spontaneous question sessions, demonstrating adeptness in recalling individuals' names and grounding weighty subject matter in real-life experiences.

As Thorpe reveals the unsettling reality of nuclear weapons stationed perilously close to our daily lives, such as the revelation of weapons in the UK not far from the theatre, audiences are confronted with the sobering inevitability of nuclear conflict.

Review: A FAMILY BUSINESS, Omnibus Theatre

The set design, a stark black box adorned with a chaotic array of hanging light bulbs, mirrors the industrial chaos of the subject matter, evoking a palpable sense of unease and urgency. Yet amidst this intensity, Thorpe deftly interweaves moments of levity, delicately balancing humour and gravity as he delves into the interconnectedness of humanity and the catastrophic potential of nuclear devastation.

Through poignant comparisons drawn between historical tragedies like Beirut and Hiroshima, Thorpe underscores the staggering magnitude of nuclear warfare, effectively conveying the incomprehensible scale of destruction modern weaponry wields. Thought-provoking imagery, such as a karaoke screen juxtaposed with shadows, drives home the inhumanity and illegality of nuclear arms, leaving audiences both shaken and stirred.

While Chris Thorpe's natural comedic flair and engaging storytelling style succeed in captivating the audience, there is a sense that the performance at times leans too heavily towards a lecture-like format, lacking in theatrical dynamism. He undoubtedly prompts reflection on the issue of nuclear weapons from his perspective, however due to primarily imparting facts and his views and no other opinions; it leads little space for us to acknowledge our own opinion too. Balancing factual information with opportunities for audience introspection too could deepen the impact of the production.

Despite these minor critiques, Thorpe's honesty and authenticity as a performer are refreshing, particularly in a world plagued by misinformation. His ability to get the audience on his side, coupled with his thought-provoking insights, makes for a compelling piece of theatre.

In its fusion of immersive storytelling, thought-provoking dialogue, and Thorpe's dynamic performance, A Family Business stands as a testament to the transformative power of theatre in addressing the pressing issues of our time. With integrated captions ensuring accessibility for all, this timely production invites audiences to engage, reflect, and perhaps catalyse change beyond the confines of the stage. And with the recent release of the BAFTA award-winning film Oppenheimer exploring similar themes, the urgency of the message conveyed by A Family Business resonates even more deeply.

A Family Business runs on 27 February 2024 at Theatre Royal Bury St.Edmunds and the 29 February 2024 - 2 March 2024 at HOME, Manchester

Photo Credits: Andreas J. Etter