Adelaide Botanic Gardens - Noel Lothian Hall
Until 19 Mar 2017

Review by Paige Mulholland

What would you do if you were faced with an emergency? Would you be able to make the tough decisions? Can you really change the outcome anyway? “Nuclear Family” addresses these questions and more with its unique, choose-your-own-adventure format and the suspenseful tale of how two siblings, despite their best attempts, caused the meltdown of a nuclear power plant and thousands of deaths due to radiation poisoning.

Once the lights have dimmed, the audience become a randomly-selected judging panel, chosen to contribute to the Royal Commission into nuclear power in South Australia. In order to decide if South Australia should adopt nuclear power, the audience is invited to consider the example of the (fictional) nuclear meltdown that happened in Ireland in the 1990s – were siblings Ellen and Joe, who were widely blamed for the incident, responsible? Or is nuclear energy, in itself, too powerful a thing to put in the hands of people? The audience watches the play, and, at critical moments, make decisions for the characters – who to let into the plant, how to deal with rising tensions, and, ultimately, who to send into grave danger.

Although the dialogue feels a little stiff at the beginning and Joe’s accent occasionally slips, overall the performance is of a very high standard. Having to remember, not only one set of lines, but all the lines for every possible permutation of decisions made by the audience, is a considerable commitment, but the performers are obviously confident and well-rehearsed.

When the audience is given a decision to make, they are provided with additional evidence, including transcripts, government documents, and personnel files for employees within the plant. Sometimes it feels like there is not enough time to get through all this evidence, and while this adds to a feeling of frenzy and suspense, it doesn’t feel true to the “Royal Commission” storyline and means that audiences sometimes don’t have all the information they need to follow the plot. However, the attention to detail in creating all these documents is very impressive, and it does give the audience the ability to make some pretty harsh and confronting decisions.

With its creative approach to storytelling, its gripping plot and its heart-pounding pace, “Nuclear Family” will have you on the edge of a meltdown of your own, in the best possible way.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)