BWW REVIEW: THE CHILDREN Is A Captivating Contemplation Of Intergenerational Responsibility In The Face Of Catastrophic Events

BWW REVIEW: THE CHILDREN Is A Captivating Contemplation Of Intergenerational Responsibility In The Face Of Catastrophic Events

Thursday 12th April 2018, 8pm, Drama Theatre Sydney Opera House

Accountability and responsibility for past actions plays out in a rollercoaster of emotions and complex conundrums in Lucy Kirkwood's THE CHILDREN. Echoing the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, this new work contemplates the human response to the damage designed by past, both on a personal level and a larger level.

Acclaimed director Sarah Goodes delivers a compelling and thought provoking two hours of theatre where the audience look in on the seemingly simple lives of two retirees living in a coastal cottage somewhere in England. Parents and grandparents Hazel (Pamela Rabe) and Robin (William Zappa) are rationing water and power as they turn what was a simple holiday shack into a more permanent residence whilst their farmstead home remains in an exclusion zone following the nearby nuclear reactor failing after a major storm. Having settled into a life of home brewing, yoga and worrying about their eldest daughter, the pair are visited by former friend and colleague Rose (Sarah Peirse), who was understood to have been dead for the past 5 years but instead had been dealing with her own challenges in America. Whilst looking like any typical retirees, the trio were once nuclear physicists, working together in the aforementioned power plant before natural disaster had caused dangerous radioactivity to leak out and taint the country side. Whilst Hazel has always been a good girl, organised and cautious to the point of applying sunscreen at night she turned a blind eye to the fact that her husband Robin, who had always considered himself as somewhat of a Lothario was having an ongoing romance with the impulsive and impetuous Rose but old wounds get opened when she sees Rose in her kitchen. Rose has returned to the neighbourhood to convince her colleagues to come out of retirement to help take over the failed power plant in an effort to save younger workers from the danger that their past actions created citing their age and responsibility to protect the next generation who had young children and hopefully long lives ahead of them.

The story plays out over the course of an afternoon and evening inside the small coastal cottage which designer Elizabeth Gadsby has artfully created as a dropped in box set askew on the broad Drama Theatre stage. Sounds of the sea complement the reflection of water that shines into the whitewashed timber space which is kept simple and somewhat utilitarian signifying that this was never meant to be a long term accommodation but rather a little seaside getaway probably for fishing or boating by the coil of rope on the wall. The circumstances that Hazel and Robin find themselves living there are indicated by the boxes of tinned food, plastic drums of drinking water that needs to be decantered into glass bottles, candles on standby and an esky to preserve food without the need to run a refrigerator.

Goodes has gathered a stellar cast for this intimate three hander. Rabe presents a beautifully grounded Hazel who has a deliciously cheeky side but also a devoted love no matter how much she spars with Robin. She presents the mother's fear with a palpable terror at the thought of not being able to protect her children. Peirse presents Rose as more worldly, sophisticated and independent whilst still carrying an air of mystery and danger about her as the reason for her visit remains unknown for a long time. She ensures Rose has an underlying bitterness to loosing what was possibly her greatest love when Hazel fell pregnant and Robin 'did the right thing'. Zappa ensures that Robin is seen as caught between the two women; having had what he thought was a secret relationship with Rose, and having built a live of love and devotion to Hazel. He is also caught between their wishes as Rose wants them to return to the plant and Hazel believes they've done their duty and they need to survive for the children and grandchildren but he's harbouring his own secrets.

This is a thought provoking work filled with laughs as relatable and recognisable situations and observations are presented with the British politeness that at times crack to expose real emotions and reactions. Goodes makes use of the space with moments of movement and stillness including the preparation of the makeshift evening meal of salad and bread and memories of their younger days dominating the dance floor. There is an honesty and realism to the events that play out helping to convey the message that this isn't some mythical fictional world that could never exist but is very much a possibility, particularly considering the aftermath of Fukushima even though that event is not referenced in this work.

This is a work that constantly challenges the audience to consider their reactions to both big and little events and decisions made in the past and whether they are still accountable for actions done decades ago. THE CHILDREN is a fabulously engaging production presented by an incredible collection of cast and creatives that should not be missed.


29 March - 19 May 2018

Drama Theatre Sydney Opera House

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From This Author Jade Kops

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