Review: Great Again, VAULT Festival

“What kind of person isn’t interested in politics”

A black man, a woman and a young gay lad walk into an Ohio bar – it may sound like the set-up for a joke but as they start to talk about how much they like Trump, we realise it is a nifty little conceit at the heart of new musical Great Again. Sidestepping the predictable, writer Isla van Tricht uses this trio to spearhead her investigation into the ideology behind young conservatives and the ways in which they coalesced behind the unlikeliest of presidential candidates in 2016. 

In their Midwestern home of Beavercreek, Ohio, Josh and Kelsey are both first time voters but given that their feelings lie to the right of centre, at odds with the liberal views of the friends and family around them, they have to look elsewhere to find kindred political souls. Tagging onto the campaign trail for Trump when it rocks up in their state, they connect with a side of America chomping at the bit to have their voices heard but as their political understanding develops, personal connections become strained.

It’s a worthy attempt into understanding how are political mindsets are cultivated and reinforced, and not just in those who one might consider are typical Republican voters. Guy Woolf’s brightly attractive score pulls in a range of voices – Alexander McMorran’s blue-collar worker lamenting a better life, Andy Umerah’s silver-tongued college grad John, and Eleanor Jackson and Jacob Bradford as the young’uns who find their new-held convictions tested in the extreme. 

The musical’s strongest scene is its loudest, an all-out row between left and right, blue and red, which typifies much of what counts for political discourse nowadays, on either side of the ocean. But it also reveals the slight shortcomings of the piece, directed by Joseph Cunningham, in that it doesn’t have the boldest of plots or sharpest of insights to accompany its set-up. If further developed, and I hope Old Sole Theatre do so, a bit more of a dramatic edge might serve Great Again well.

Running time: 70 minutes (without interval)
Photo: Nick Rutter

Booking until 28th January

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