Review: Nuclear Family

Amid ongoing debates over workers’ rights and the nuclear industry here in South Australia, Nuclear Family could hardly be a more timely show.

Following the story of siblings Ellen (Eva O’Connor, also a co-writer with Hildegard Ryan) and Joe (Simon Chandler) amid the inevitable meltdown of a nuclear power station commandeered by a troupe of furious ex-employees, this is a tale of tragedy and mostly forgone conclusions.

The audience takes part in Nuclear Family’s enjoyable choose-your-own-adventure style narrative, speedily assessing court documents to decide what the main players should do throughout an unfolding crisis. We are drawn into their mostly cosy, occasionally confrontational relationship and the split second decisions that must be made to avert disaster.

Questions of loyalty, duty and corporate responsibility abound, but it is the fraternal relationship between Joe and Ellen that strikes the strongest chord with the audience. O’Connor and Chandler must be praised for their strong, passionate portrayals.

This is an experimental format and deserves credit for deliberately revealing the ending at the very outset of the show and pushing the boundaries of audience interaction and responsibility. Yet these choices, while brave, somewhat undermine the action onstage, as they break up the solid drama between Ellen and Joe, and leave the audience asking if their choices could ever make a difference in the tragic tale.

Nuclear Family leaves audiences with more questions than answers as it hunts for blame amid this confluence of tragic events and foolish actions, which are fun to ponder once the sirens and flashing lights of the meltdown cease. The largest of all remains, ‘What could have been?’

Nuclear Family continues at Noel Lothian Hall until March 19.

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