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  • Olivia Cox

Review - A Family Business

Omnibus Theatre

Playing until 25th February 2024 then a UK tour

Review {AD-PR Invite}

How often do you talk about, or even think about the threat posed to humanity by the existence of nuclear weapons? If you’re like most of us, then not enough. This is exactly what Chris Thorpe wants to fix with his new show.


As a piece of theatre, it’s hard to categorise A Family Business. Part play, part seminar, and even part quiz, it’s a confronting 90 minutes that urges us to consider both the inevitable mass destruction that nuclear weapons will impart on civilisation, as well as the preposterous realisation that every earth-shattering decision made about how these weapons are used are made by seemingly regular people, living lives not a million miles away from our own.


The Omnibus Theatre is well suited for a show like this, providing Thorpe with the intimacy he needs to connect with the audience — which he does quite literally, greeting and chatting with every audience member as they enter the theatre.


Directly addressing the audience from the start, Thorpe sets up the framework for the show by telling us about a chance encounter he had with Véronique Christory (Andrea Quirbach), Senior Arms Control Adviser for the International Committee of the Red Cross, at a hotel bar after one of his shows. From this conversation onwards, he couldn’t stop thinking about nuclear weapons and the small number of people controlling them on behalf of billions of others, particularly after learning more about the creation and implementation of The Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons.


The action that follows includes fictionalised vignettes, highlighting the types of conversations that would have taken place between delegates at the UN while the Treaty was being created, interspersed with moments of Thorpe interacting with the audience to demonstrate the very real impact these conversations have on our planet.


As well as Véronique, the dramatised scenes include two fictionalised characters, delegates James (Greg Barnett) and Layla (a scene-stealing Efé Agwele). While all three performers embodied their characters well, the dialogue in these scenes at times felt clunky, unnecessarily profane and lacking dynamism, making them drag in contrast with the urgency conveyed in Thorpe’s solo interactions with the audience.


The biggest draw of this performance is Thorpe himself. An incredibly compelling presence on stage, he interacts with the audience with complete ease and quick wit, whether he’s testing our knowledge on nuclear weapons through a quiz or showing us the potential destruction caused by these weapons on the live ‘NUKEMAP’.


A Family Business certainly left me in shock, as well as wanting to learn more and carry on the conversation with others. But while director Claire O’Reilly has done a good job of staging this unconventionally structured show, some of the dramatised scenes would benefit from further refinement so this piece can reach its full potential and make the monumental impact it deserves to.

Key Creatives

Writer: Chris Thorpe,

Developed with Rachel Chavkin and Lekan Lawal

Director: Claire O’Reilly

Assistant Director on Production: Tim Schmultzer

Dramaturg: Rachel Chavkin & Jörg Vorhaben

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