DramaPulse FestivalReviewSouth East

PULSE FESTIVAL: Nuclear Family – High Street Exhibition Gallery, Ipswich

Writers: Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan
Director: Jonathon Corr
Reviewer: Paul Couch

It’s a fascinating concept – a play that stops at several points throughout the story so the audience can decide how to proceed; the ultimate in “turn right/turn left” scenarios.

In Eva O’Connor and Hildegard Ryan’s Nuclear Family, the cast of two (Director Jonathon Corr himself appears as a third but outside of the main narrative), Aidan O’Callaghan and Anne O’Riordan play Joe and Ellen Lyneham, siblings who find themselves in the unlikely jobs as security guards at Ashtown Nuclear Power Station. If we can suspend our disbelief for that bit, it’s quite an interesting story, despite them being the scruffiest security guards on the planet.

Ellen’s ne’er-do-well boyfriend, Phil, has recently been laid off along with a large percentage of the rest of the workforce of the ageing facility. Phil, who has a history of violent, antisocial behaviour, decides to mount an attack on the station with some mates, ostensibly to stage a sit-in process. When things turn ugly and Ellen is forced to choose between love and duty, we’re asked to decide a series of choices that fundamentally change the outcome of the story.  Is there any scenario in which the power plant, the siblings, and the local population survive? It’s difficult to see how, but audiences are full of surprises.

Sounds intriguing…unless you’re one of the actors, who have to learn two different base scripts, along with the ramifications of each audience decision. Those with an affinity for science fiction will understand the theory of the Butterfly Effect, where the flapping wings of a butterfly can cause a hurricane on the other side of the planet. The cast don’t improvise, but they have to think on their feet.

O’Connor and Ryan’s script is original and cleverly written if a little contrived in places. O’Callaghan’s Joe is infuriatingly laconic until things go off the rails and he suddenly comes to life. As Ellen, O’Riordan is Irish sass from the start, goading her brother about his non-existent love-life and challenging his by-the-book response to the attack at every turn. Two very competent and well-observed performances.

Nuclear Family is a little rough around the edges still but it will be interesting to see how it develops.

Reviewed on 10 June 2017 | Image: Contributed

www.pulseipswich.co.uk  |  @pulseipswich #pulse17

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