Melbourne Theatre Company Associate Director Sarah Goodes describes The Children by Lucy Kirkwood as a “seemingly small, detailed play” that taps into “Large themes and ideas.”
In directing the Southbank Theatre’s first production of 2018 and the Australian premiere of this award winning British playwright’s play about intergenerational legacy, Sarah Goodes delivers a gripping evening that most accurately reflects her own programme note.
Being lured to the theatre bar and posthumously discovering this 2-hour production offers no interval was not at all comforting but mercifully, three absolutely compelling performances provided astoundingly good distraction and at curtain down, acknowledgement that any break in proceedings would have gravely impaired real-time tension.
As retired scientists, Hazel (Pamela Rabe) and Robin (William Zappa) make do in a retreat that barely shields them, physically and emotionally, from the toxic chaos of a nuclear disaster along the idyllic British coast, a former colleague and old friend Rose (Sarah Peirse), arrives with a determined agenda that calls on each of them to reflect on what they have done, and what they may ultimately feel compelled to do.
As the three former colleagues dance, literally and emotionally, around the consciously uncomfortable and detailed confines of Elizabeth Gadsby’s mobile home like set, we glimpse younger former souls grappling to process thoughts of the world beyond them and indeed, now beyond them.
Pamela Rabe is mesmerising as Hazel. A masterclass in timing, presence and physical dexterity capturing a woman seemingly ‘holding up the world’ while harbouring a scream that feels forever on the cusp.
Sarah Peirse’s Rose is serenely menacing from the outset stimulating an intensely uncomfortable desire to discover her thoughts and motives. Expertly managed, narration of deep sadness succeeds thoroughly in magnifying later revelations of noble endeavour.
William Zapper innocently and amusingly hovers perfectly between intellectual, dirty old man and loving household head. This fine and beautifully understated performance is homage to masculine failings, tender reflection and ‘blue pill’ triumphs.
Credit of course to the Actors but in a ‘review rare’ nod to a Voice and Dialect Coach, Geraldine Cook-Dafner has tuned this trio admirably in capturing flawlessly neutral British accents. Noteworthy mention to Sarah Peirse for some very subtle transatlantic nuance.
Massively thought provoking and enjoyable, The Children powerfully couples eco morality with a painful study of physical decline.
Challenging, confronting and unexpectedly charming, a talented cast and creative team deliver a witty and clever play that is astute in it observations.
Melbourne Theatre Company presents
by Lucy Kirkwood
Director Sarah Goodes
Venue: Southbank Theatre, The Sumner
Dates: 3 February – 10 March 2018