Left – Pamela Rabe, William Zappa and Sarah Peirse. Cover – William Zappa and Pamela Rabe. Photos – Jeff Busby
A kitchen sinker for the 21st Century, The Children cements playwright Lucy Kirkwood's place in contemporary theatre's pantheon of stylists with form.
The kitchen sink here is located in a cosy living space, spic and span, a sea side shack of weathered board, a rustic retirement home for empty nesters, Hazel and Robin. Ironically, their sea change was changed by the sea after an earthquake and ensuing tsunami rent asunder a nearby nuclear power plant. More ironically, Hazel and Robin made their comfortable living from working at the power station. Now their comfortable lives are disrupted by unreliable plumbing, erratic electricity supply and leaking radiation.
Their comfortable lives receive a further aftershock with the arrival of Rose, an old friend and colleague of Hazel and Robin, releasing a tsunami of reminiscence, regret, and questions of responsibility. This sanctuary from a nuclear calamity becomes a staging ground and sounding board for past transgressions, moral responsibility, friendship and fidelity, and generational legacy.
Lucy Kirkwood is quoted in the programme notes, “I find myself drawn to writing about things where the roots of the emotions and ideas go deep and the branches go high”. The Children is proof positive of that draw and an exemplary example of the execution of her craft. The Children of the title are not children at all but grown ups tackling the emotional terrain of ageing, of lengthening life and libido, anxiety over disease and decisions made that have both of personal and global impact.
A script like The Children is a gift for any actor, and the three actors here – Pamela Rabe, Sarah Peirse and William Zappa – through their own gifts of concentrated playfulness, re-gift it to the audience, gift wrapped with rapt attention.
Rabe is majestic as Hazel, steely, proprietorial, with a subterranean sense of fun and swoops to conquer every line, pause and action. As Rose, Peirse presents a calm, congenial surface that belies a simmering saucepan of secrets which she brilliantly brings to the boil. Zappa's Robin is a gently centrifugal force to the beautifully defined densities of the two women, savouring the attraction he enjoyed with and from both.
Elizabeth Gadsby's set and costume design is remarkable in its detail and nuance. The set breathes Hazel, emanating an extension of her character. Paul Jackson's lighting design skilfully denotes emotional change along with an undercurrent of aquatic motif.
Sarah Goodes direction is sharp and clear, as celebratory of silences as the exuberance of music and dance, choreographing a blistering ballet of banter; recrimination and reparation in an engaging pas de trois.
Sydney Theatre Company presents a Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company production
by Lucy Kirkwood
Director Sarah Goodes
Venue: Drama Theatre | Sydney Opera House NSW
Dates: 29 March – 19 May 2018