by Lucy Kirkwood
Director: Sarah Goodes
‘The Children’ is a flip on the usual ‘baby boomers have screwed this world and are leaving us to clean up’ adage. In fact, this theatre piece is a brave, compelling and sad story of a group of people like any other group of aging Anglos. The characters of ‘The Children’ (a stellar cast comprising Pamela Rabe as ‘Hazel, Sarah Peirse as ‘Rose’ and William Zappa as ‘Robin’) have worked hard and played hard, have made good and bad choices, have said and done things they should and should not have said and done ‒ and they are trying to live the best life they can, considering the circumstances.
Only the circumstances in Kirkwood’s ‘The Children’ begin in a home just outside the exclusion zone of an area where there has been a natural disaster that has caused a meltdown in the nuclear reactor.
In waltzes an aging women (Rose), returning after 35 years and somewhat surprising the inhabitants of the house (Hazel and Robin). Hazel appears to be a yoga practising conservationist and Robin a subsistence-style farmer but we later discover they are all scientists who worked at the nuclear plant before its meltdown.
Initially you think this play is about past affairs and relationships, intrigues and remorse set is a more problematic context than most that take on this theme. In a way it is, but more uniquely it is about a group of older people who slowly and painfully decide to return to a mess that they had initially decided was too hard to confront, and by doing so relieve the young scientists who are presently working frantically to restore some security before the leaking plant can create further damage.
Loosely based on the group of Japanese elders (Skilled Veterans Corp) who volunteered to assist in the crisis at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, ‘The Children’ will leave you with an aching heart and many thoughts.
A surprising piece of theatre that you find you have become immersed in without noticing.
A Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company production
By Lucy Kirkwood