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REVIEW: The Children by Lucy Kirkwood

Review by Markus Hamence – Opening Night, Tuesday 6 February 2024, Adelaide Festival Centre

In a small English coastal cottage, former nuclear scientists Hazel and her husband Robin are enjoying a quiet retirement, despite living just outside the exclusion zone of a dangerously crumbling nuclear power plant.

She practices her yoga, while he tends to his cows and, bar the rolling blackouts, their lives seem mostly untouched by the chaos outside – until a visit from an old friend and colleague with hidden intentions shakes their peaceful existence, forcing them to confront their secret jealousies and their past and future.

‘The Children'”‘ by Lucy Kirkwood is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged theatrical play that explores complex themes of responsibility, environmental disaster, and the consequences of past actions. Premiering in 2016, the play has received critical acclaim for its engaging storytelling and the depth of its characters.

Here’s my review of ‘The Children’ by Lucy Kirkwood:

Dearest South Australian Theatre Company of South Australia, after a smashing year in 2023 (I mean, what a program that was), it’s awesome to have you commence the 2024 season with this piece of very fine theatre and it’s set the bench mark. I sum it up in two words, ‘Provocatively beautiful’.

I lied, I have MUCH MORE to say…

Director, Corey McMahon has really turned on a show with this sensational, thought-provoking and well-executed piece of theatre, we should feel blessed to have this talent at the helm of the show. The masterful knowledge of his craft is well evident.

The Compelling Characters: The play centers around three characters, two retired nuclear scientists, Hazel and Robin, and their former colleague Rose. Kirkwood has crafted these characters with depth and authenticity, making them relatable and intriguing. The interactions between them reveal layers of their personalities and the unresolved tensions from their shared history.

The Environmental Crisis: “The Children” tackles the pressing issue of environmental responsibility and the aftermath of a nuclear disaster. The play serves as a metaphor for the ethical and moral dilemmas humanity faces in dealing with environmental crises. Kirkwood presents the audience with a stark reminder of the consequences of scientific advancements.

The Emotional Resonance: The play wildly excels in conveying the emotional turmoil of its characters, and we see quite the roller-coaster, which is very engaging. It skillfully explores themes of regret, sacrifice, and the choices made throughout one’s life. The emotional weight of the story lingers long after the final curtain call, leaving the audience with much to contemplate. Personally, I still have visions of poor ‘Robin’ burying the cows in the cold, lonely paddock.

The Intriguing Structure: Kirkwood’s non-linear narrative structure keeps the audience engaged and curious throughout. The play unfolds slowly, revealing crucial information about the characters’ pasts and their present circumstances. This technique adds layers of complexity to the storytelling.

The Challenging Questions: “The Children” doesn’t provide easy answers to the questions it raises. Instead, it encourages viewers to grapple with their own beliefs and values, forcing them to confront difficult ethical dilemmas and moral choices.

The Strong Performances: The success of “The Children” largely depends on the performances of the actors. A skilled cast can bring out the nuances of the characters and make the audience empathize with their struggles. The chemistry and acting prowess of the cast are vital to the play’s impact.

Tina Bursill (Doctor Doctor, The Moodys) as ‘Rose’ is remarkable has the acting prowess to take on any character. But, when a reveal moment occurs (you’ll have to see it) and it’s met with simultaneous gasps from the audience, we see multiple parts of her character exposed (not just physically). Tina is exemplerary.

Genevieve Mooy (Wellmania, The Appleton Ladies’ Potato Race) as ‘Rose’, is all kinds of freakin’ delightful, really quite manic, the range of emotions, moods and traits she portrays is numerous. Genevieve is a joy on stage. She LIVES this role, no one else could have played this better. Bravo.

Terence Crawford (1984, Girl From The North Country) as ‘Robin’ is just loved. I saw him a few years ago in ‘Girl From Th North Country’ he was great. But, in this undertaking he much more layered as a character and the development of this role gives him so much more to play with emotionally, and he delivers. From affairs, to the anguish of burying animals and possible regrets, Terence goes deep and it hits the mark every time.

The entire cast and perfectly suited to their roles. Kudos.

The Set Design and Production: The setting, a remote cottage near a nuclear power station, plays a significant role in creating the atmosphere of the play. The set design and production elements contribute to the overall mood and help immerse the audience in the story’s world. Victoria Lamb as the set and costume designer has brought to life a real space that is believable and authentic to the story. The cottage set has your eyes darting around picking up all the details, and there any many. A job done very well.

While the lighting design by Nic Mollison was fulfilled with the upmost visual impact. The slow ending of the day light through the window, the moonlight night, the candle lit room (they are in a black-out), to the sudden illumination again, it connected the actors to the set and very much the actors and the set to us, the audience. Great job and very effective.

The Conclusion: ‘”‘The Children'”‘ is a powerful and intellectually stimulating play that tackles important themes while maintaining a strong emotional core. Lucy Kirkwood’s skillful writing and the compelling performances of the actors make it a must-see for theatergoers interested in thought-provoking drama. It encourages reflection on our own responsibility in a world facing environmental challenges and leaves a lasting impact on its audience.

‘The Children’ by Lucy Kirkwood runs from 2-17 February 2024 at Adelaide Festival Centre’s Dunstan Playhouse.

For tickets click here!

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