Review: One Hill of a Fight

Nicolas Wells as Mayor John Fow.

Nicolas Wells as Mayor John Fow.

What: One Hill of a Fight
Who: Hamilton Performing Arts Company
When: August 11-19
Where: The Meteor
Written and directed by: Michael Switzer
Producer: Russell Armitage
Reviewer: Sam Edwards

Trying to condense years of history into a couple of hours usually spells narrative disaster - unless you are Michael Switzer. He has a remarkable ability to condense events into their very essence, then recreate them as temporal summaries looking like reality itself.

In One Hill, he reduces a couple of decades of Hamilton history to a narrative populated by five historical characters from dynasties like the Jolly family, the Fows and the Laffertys, and two real-life engineers who made an enormous impact on the future shape of this city.

Switzer keeps the audience spellbound for nearly two hours. During that time the audience experiences the effects of battles from WWI, city politics which illuminate even today's council stoushes and successes, and relationships driven by a range of human desires which will become the stuff of living memory.

Remarkably, and despite appearances, the players are not full-time professional actors. The dynamic Charlotte Isaac, the only woman in the performance, plays Betty, the wife of the decorated soldier become civilian engineer, Rupert Worley. Isaac's timing with dialogue and movement has a dramatic (and quite intentional) unpredictability which is a rare delight.

She is the perfect foil for Worley, the Hamilton borough employee who engineered - in more ways than one - the restructuring of Garden Place. Ryan Wolf's powerful performance ranged from comic politics to poignant recapture of life at the front, and partnered the neophyte engineer's assistant James Baird (Calum Hughes) as Baird developed from tentative and sycophantic newcomer to a maturity with the real authority of age and experience.

The gunpowder and firelighter combination of councillor Lafferty and Mayor Fow - Graham Pollard and Nicolas Wells respectively - was superb as comedy and powerful as drama. And the combination meant that this play very quickly became much greater than simply the sum of its parts.

Together with the lighting genius and sound magic of messrs Chesham and Moxham, and creative and practical set design, this performance turned onto an experience one will treasure.

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