By Lucy Kirkwood. Sydney Theatre Company. Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Mr 29 – May 19, 2018.
A challenging and rewarding work, The Children unfolds naturalistically in real time.
On a simple functional set of a rustic kitchen by Elizabeth Gadsby, superbly lit by Paul Jackson, three clever and influential sixty something nuclear physicists reunite. The world as they know it has been turned upside down by a Fukushima like disaster. Some of their pasts are divulged and we get to witness their flawed and often messy humanness. And the apparently altruistic reason for the, often uncomfortable, ‘get together’ is revealed in the last minutes of the piece.
Lucy Kirkwood’s text functions on a number of levels. As an unfolding story it is full of surprises and maintains interest. However as an observation of characters from the baby boomer generation it sometimes feels like an indictment. The subject matter of our damage to our planet is deeply unsettling. But there is another niggling ambiguous rift in this production. Perhaps it is in the writing. I am wondering if this is because Kirkwood is a much younger woman than the generation she is writing about. Therefore, what is presented is only partially from the lived perspective of the protagonists. So, at times the actors are bound by the way Kirkwood has written – to perform their characters from the perspective of an observer.
There is lots of humour and many laughs in this work. However, I get the impression there is a delicate balance, for director Sarah Goodes, between releasing the intrinsic sense of fun and play in the material from under the pall of the framing of a story of cataclysmic disaster. I am wondering . . . .