Thursday, 15 February 2018

The Children, Feb 13, 2018 ****

by Lucy Kirkwood, Melbourne Theatre Company with STC
Southbank Theatre, The Sumner, until March 10, 2018 
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review also published in Herald Sun Arts / Lifestyle on Thursday Feb 15, 2018. KH
L-R: Sarah Peirse, Pamela Rabe, William Zappa.
How do you live a carefully planned, comfortable, serene and healthy retirement when you are forced to live on the edge of a Fukushima-like nuclear catastrophe?

In Lucy Kirkwood’s confronting and unsettling play, The Children, married couple Hazel (Pamela Rabe) and Robin (William Zappa), two retired nuclear physicists who used to work at the nearby nuclear plant, have had to move to their isolated cottage on the English coast where they survive on ‘less’: less food, less electricity, less everything.

When Rose (Sarah Peirse), their old friend and fellow physicist, arrives unexpectedly and uninvited, the three must confront not only their shared past, but also a grim future and a challenging, ethical dilemma.

Kirkwood’s witty, pithy dialogue challenges our views of ageing, social responsibility, and the ethical issue of bringing children into a dangerous world.

Set in a realistic, farmhouse kitchen (design, Elizabeth Gadsby), Sarah Goode’s compelling, naturalistic production boasts an exceptional cast of three of Australia’s finest actors in Rabe, Peirse and Zappa.

Rabe is brisk and blunt as the sensible, active, and always busy Hazel, whose life is turned upside down by the nuclear disaster, but who is even more distressed and destabilised by Rose’s sudden arrival after decades of absence.

Zappa brings a touch of playful, relaxed blokiness to Robin, her husband, but he later shifts into a darker state of vulnerability and quiet desperation.

Peirse, as Rose, is the grit in their well-oiled machine, and her wild edginess and chaotic lifestyle bring a sense of danger that leads to the startling but inevitable reason for her visit. No spoilers here.

In a contemporary world unable to successfully resolve most natural and man-made disasters, Kirkwood’s play is a potent reminder that our past is unchangeable, our present is fragile and our future riddled with uncertainty.

By Kate Herbert

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