Review: Once we built a tower

by librarykris on March 14, 2014

The latest Dean Parker play (with songs! and live music!) performed by the Bacchanals follows the lives of Ethel and Gervan McMillan, and Frances and Arnold Nordmeyer. Gervan and Arnold played active roles in the Labour government’s introduction of a welfare scheme in 1938. It looks at circumstances that influenced their thinking on welfare, then the fight they had to get those ideas accepted by the government. It’s a fascinating look at the origins of an ongoing political and societal issue.

I think this is the best ensemble work I’ve seen the Bachannals do. They are adept at the comedic scenes and grounded for the serious scenes. One of the things I like about them is that they’re constantly playing with the audience as well as each other. There are winks during some prop wrangling which invites the audience to be part of the experience. This production is anchored by excellent performances by Kirsty Bruce (sassy as Ethel McMillan), Brianne Kerr (sweet as Frances Nordmeyer), Alex Greig (alternately cheeky then serious as Dr Gervan McMillan), and Michael Trigg (appropriately righteous as Arnold Nordmeyer.) Michael Ness delivers a stirring speech as Joe Savage.

Tight ensemble work, a lively and engaging two hours of overtly political (music and) theatre in election year.

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