One of the most intriguing aspects of theatre is that it has the potential to cover a wide variety of topics, from the controversial to the family-friendly. Great Again is no different, showcasing the events of the Trump 2016 US presidential election from the perspective of a few conservative voters. Tied together with comedy, music and believable characters, this new musical makes you smile whatever your political stance.

The audience are introduced to two young conservative voters, who are both struggling with their home life. Surrounded by liberal supporters, Josh (Jacob Bradford) and Kelsey (Eleanor Jackson) feel that their own views are being silenced. Both are anxious to leave their hometown of Beavercreek, Ohio and join the political storm that Donald Trump has created. Upon meeting John (Andy Umerah), they are invited to embark on a campaign tour in support of the controversial politician, where they encounter a sea of opposing opinions. Despite feelings of doubt and uncertainty, this newly found team are determined to make their voices heard.

With a topic that can so easily split the audience, a production of this nature needs to tread carefully and present the show in a way that is enjoyable for all. Writer Isla van Tricht finds a way through, providing an element of light-hearted humour and ensuring that Great Again does not simply become a lecture on Trump. The story is aided by Guy Woolf‘s great music, which fantastically portrays the personalities of each individual character. In the scene where Leonard (Alexander McMorran) is discussing his disappointment in past presidential elections, you can feel McMorran’s passion through the lyrics – he is constantly let down by politicians who lie to get the ultimate position of power, but don’t carry their promises through. A particular musical highlight is Josh’s (Bradford) song about feeling invisible and alone, which adds another layer of emotion to the show.

The overall staging is very clever – director Joseph Cunningham cleverly utilises the intimate space, breaking down the fourth wall so that the cast can enter the audience. This is particularly effective when campaigners against Trump are at the top of the theatre, chanting at Josh, Kelsey and John. The audience then become a barrier between the two opposing sides and are immersed in the dramatic events that a political rally can create.

A 75-minute show like Great Again does not require a large and complex set, but it does require good direction to ensure that the story is being portrayed believably. Cunningham manages to capture this alongside musical director Lauren Ronan, who accompanies on keyboard. This works fine for the majority of the score, but some songs require a bigger orchestration to  do the composition justice.

It is always interesting to see how real-life events can be brought to life on stage, especially in a musical format – Great Again is no exception. Fundamentally, the story is around the presidential election. However, beneath the surface there is also a very touching plot about friendship, which one would generally not expect from a musical about voting for Trump. The audience are onlookers as these new relationships are formed and they fight for a cause they all feel passionately about – to make America Great Again.

 

★★★★☆

To read more about Great Again, which plays the VAULT Festival until 28 January 2018, follow the company on Twitter (@OldSoleTheatre) or visit the venue website.

Click here for a spotlight with the creative team.