THE CHILDREN, 3Star***, London, To 14 January

by Lucy Kirkwood.
3Stars ***

Jerwood Downstairs, Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS to 14 January 2017.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm. Mat Thur & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr No interval.

TICKETS: 020 7565 5000
Review: William Russell 25 November.

Kitchen sink drama posing some powerful questions
Lucy Kirkwood’s three hander takes far too long to get to the point, and by the time it does one is beginning to lose interest which is a pity because the questions raised are worth asking. Director James Macdonald really does need to screw up the pace, which lags sadly in the middle of a long two hours. It is not the fault of the cast, and maybe there was too much reverence for Ms Kirkwood’s text.

She won glowing reviews for her previous play, Chimerica and loads of awards, as well as being described as the best new playwright of her generation. The follow up play is always a problem and this one has its problems.

In a lonely cottage somewhere in Suffolk near a nuclear power station which has had a major accident and is now inside an exclusion zone live Hazel (Deborah Findlay) and Robin (Ron Cook), two former scientists who worked there when it was set up. They have grown up children, farm and he has cows. On sunny afternoon into their lives comes Rose (Francesca Annis), a former colleague whom they have not seen for 38 years on a mission which it takes a long time for her to disclose.

Life in the small holding is not perfect. The water supply is undrinkable, the sewage system peculiar and, although he has not told Hazel, Robin’s cows are dying as a result of the accident – think Fukushima and Sizewell – and he is having to bury them.

To complicate things Rose and Robin were once lovers and all three are still sexual beings, which is rare in plays since senior citizens usually are supposed to have left all that behind them. Rose is collecting former colleagues to return to he plant to shut it up, thus saving the young staff from getting the cancers that result from working there. Should the people responsible for the fact the plant was a disaster pay the price rather than the people who inherited it? Robin agrees, Hazel has other ideas and Rose is, if anything, the angel of death. At the end the apocalypse appears to happen as the seas rise up and overwhelm them – or maybe not.

Audiences who enjoyed Chimerica will turn out, but leave rather less satisfied. However, Annis is splendidly enigmatic and sexy; Cook does the male on heat and full of Viagra stuff beautifully; and Findlay is a fine earth mother figure torn about what to do – go or stay with her family. And there is the dilemma – save some people from the sins of the fathers, or stay out of the situation and have a comfortable old age miles away?

Rose: Francesca Annis.
Hazel: Deborah Findlay.
Robin: Ron Cook.

Director: James Macdonald.
Designer: Miriam Buether.
Lighting Designer: Peter Mumford.
Sound Designer: Max Pappenheim.
Fight Director: Bret Yount.
Assistant Director: Amy Ball.
Costume Supervisor: Lucy Walshaw.

2016-11-26 10:35:49

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