Based on conversations with activists, academics and diplomats, theatre maker Chris Thorpe’s new show, A Family Business, focuses on the human story of the struggle of nuclear disarmament, and the group of people whose business it is to try to stop us blowing up the planet.
Looking at the ordinary people who make extraordinarily important decisions, it examines what qualifies a person to speak on behalf of huge parts of the global population. A Family Business is the final part of Chris Thorpe and Rachel Chavkin’s trilogy of shows that look at global issues from an individual standpoint, following on from Confirmation and Status, both Scotsman Fringe First winners.
The show tells the story of the creation of The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and is based on extensive research carried out over four years with experts in the field of nuclear disarmament including with Véronique Christory Senior Arms Control Adviser, International Committee of the Red Cross, UN office. Chris has interviewed diplomats and activists from all over the world including delegates at the First Meeting of State Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was held in June 2022 in Vienna. Chris is also working closely with Zainab Rauf Tramboo, participant in the UN’s youth programme Youth4Disarmament.
Véronique is played in the show by Andrea Quirbach alongside two fictional characters, Layla played by Efé Agwale and James played by Greg Barnett, revealing the human dynamics in the high stakes diplomacy of the Treaty’s creation. Chris Thorpe appears as himself to narrate and talk to the audience about the impact the decisions on stage would have on their location.
Like Confirmation and Status, A Family Business is built around the real-world effects on individual and social decision making of the cognitive biases and stories we carry. Confirmation investigated this at the level of the individual, Status at the level of the national – A Family Business expands to look at what happens when those constructed stories of nationality have to communicate with each other at a global level and at the diplomats tasked with doing that. The show aims to open up conversations around nuclear disarmament, both through audience engagement in the show and outside the theatre, at a timely moment in history when countries with nuclear weapons are in conflict.
Chris Thorpe said, “Like most of my work, this show started by accident and became an obsession – it’s about one of the biggest, and least visible threats to global civilisation, and why we don’t talk about it enough.”
Chris Thorpe is an award-winning writer and performer and Associate Artist at the Royal Exchange, Manchester – work for them includes There Has Possibly Been an Incident and The Mysteries. Other theatre work includes Victory Condition and The Milk of Human Kindness for the Royal Court, Chorus for the Gate Theatre and Hannah, Beowolf and one of Aesop’s Fables for the Unicorn. He regularly collaborates with Lucy Ellinson (Tory-core), Portugal’s mala voadora (Overdrama/House-Garden/ Dead End/Your Best Guest), Hannah Jane Walker (The Oh Fuck Moment/I Wish I Was Lonely). and Rachel Bagshaw for The Shape of The Pain, recently adapted for the BBC as part of their Culture In Quarantine series. His short film for the Royal Court and the Financial Times about the climate crisis, What Do You Want Me to Say? was released in September 2019. Awards include multiple Fringe, the Premio Franco Enriquez 2018; and selection for Berlin Theatertreffen’s Stuckemarkt for There Has Possibly Been an Incident. Current work includes Talking About The Fire, also about nuclear weapons policy, with China Plate, Staatstheater Mainz and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg, and Always Maybe The Last Time, about the psychology of the climate crisis, for the Royal Court.
China Plate is a theatre producing studio based in Birmingham and working across the UK. As an arts charity, they help people to make creative projects happen – from theatre shows, to audio anthologies, to bus stop galleries. Their mission is to develop a new model of creating and producing theatre that opens up the way performance is made, who makes it and who it’s experienced by. They have recently made work with Caroline Horton, Inspector Sands, David Edgar, Chris Thorpe, Rachel Chavkin, Rachel Bagshaw, Urielle Klein-Mekongo, Roy Williams, Chris Haydon, April De Angelis, Lucy Rivers, Tim Sutton, Casey Bailey and BBC iPlayer. They are resident Associate Producers at Warwick Arts Centre and partners in Derby CAN, Derby Theatre’s Arts Council England Producing Hub. For more information, please visit: www.chinaplatetheatre.com