Direction: Susan Wilson (written by Lucy Kirkwood)
Circa Theatre; Circa One (March 30-April 27)
In Lucy Kirkwood’s script and in Susan Wilson’s staging and pacing The Children is a triumph. This is an example of every part of the puzzle fitting, of every piece needing to be there – for this production is elegantly and effectively lit and the set is perfect. And then we add our three players. We are talking about seasoned workers, safe hands – Peter Hambleton, Carmel McGlone and Catherine Downs. All have runs on the board and can play the nightwatchman role or come in swinging and knock it to the fence. In some sense The Children requires all three to take turns at both styles of knock.
It’s one of those theatre pieces where to reveal too much in any sort of review is to ruin it for future audiences so I’ll say straight up that this was an excellent piece of work. Quietly stunning.
In a complex layering of themes we get to know Hazel (McGlone) and Robin (Hambleton); they’re retired scientists. A mostly happily-married couple. They have four children and five grandkids. We hear about them but never see them. We really only hear about their first born, Lauren. She has rage issues that have plagued her since her childhood.
From their past enters Rose (Downs). She worked with the couple, some 38 years ago.
As the evening unfolds we become aware of various tensions – mostly due to the power-rations as part of the fallout from the nuclear power station where the scientists all worked. Expounded by the power-plays of the three retirees wrestling with their interpersonal relationships and the worries for the future.
Taut, eerie, brilliantly dramatic – with so many razor-sharp lines of fine character-study and pithy asides – The Children was, for me, must-see theatre. Kirkwood is a brilliant playwright – but the servicing of her script her is hugely impressive. And if there is one standout, and it can seem almost unfair to pick one actor from a tight ensemble of three, it is Carmel McGlone. Maybe it’s because her character feels like the crucial hinge, and because she easily became the focus-point for my sympathies. I also think McGlone is a brilliant worker, natural and unflappable.
Hambleton and Downs had plenty of moments to shine and never failed – but I feel like McGlone’s work here was tour-de-force.
The Children keeps us guessing, keeps us searching for further reveals. And they keep coming. Bit by bit we’re pulled along, encouraged to lean in, and there’s something startling – maybe a little unsettling for some theatre-goers – in just how prescient this work is, how relevant to right now.
These are the questions for the future that should have been asked long ago. That should have seen better answers offered.
But we’re strange, complex beasts. And we get to see that on stage for the 105 minutes of this slow-dazzler.
I get the feeling you could return to The Children again – and possibly even again – and see new things in it, hear new moments that slipped by. The energy of the piece – if you’ll perhaps pardon a near pun – was, well, electrifying.
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