Theatre Trip: The Children
This performance will test your skill as a reader of the play and as an observer and critic of the production.
On the 30th of November, the A level students of MPW, made the short journey on the District Line to watch Lucy Kirkwood’s ‘The Children’ at the Royal Court in Sloane Square. The play, a sensible and accurate cautionary tale about baby boomer’s inheritance for the newer generations, chooses to give itself a measure of time and place and abandons the epic widescreen from her latest work Chimerica.
The Set Design
As the audience walked in, they were presented with a kitchen like everyone’s. The set consisted of a kitchen and dining room space with clearly defined spots, with Robin (Ron Cook) comfortable on his armchair and Hazel (Deborah Findlay) castled in her kitchen. This extremely realistic set revealed two interesting points of interest as the performance went on, making us perceive the wasteland outside only through the window on the left, which also then became source of a light that drives our emotions throughout the play. Secondly, when the audience does realize that Hazel and Robin live alone, suddenly the vast kitchen appears full of superfluous objects, and the ghost of their children (from which the title of the play comes) reveals itself through absences and overabundance.
The story is simple but full of implications the audience can hardly get their heads around afterwards. A couple of retired nuclear scientists away from civilization to live off yoga and yoghurt and forget their weight in the world, looking away from the world crumbling around them. Rose, an old colleague and (to some degree) friend, comes to them with an offer for the braves, disrupting their daily morals.
The plot is sometimes enacted more by its ghosts and their meanings than the action itself: Death is always present, unmentioned (Hazel gets hysterical at the thought of it), and it appears as though the only way any of them had anything to do with it is through the implant (third ghost of the story). Constant allusion to frequent blackouts and radiation suggests a damaged world around them, but Kirkwood is wise enough not to make the play post-apocalyptic by suggesting a shadow of what a future wasteland could be. It is unclear whether the condition is such because they live close to a quarantined area or because of the ‘world of the future’, that smooths out the critique and makes it constructive instead of destructive, a good way of making conversation through a play in an age where all critiques are made behind social platform and are all but constructive.
Lucy Kirkwood managed to successfully capture the audience’s attention from the start. The curiosity that had built up as everyone walked in to see the set design had members of the audience debating the outcome of the play. It did not disappoint. The question mark over Rose’s true purpose of visiting Hazel and Ron had the audience leaning in their seats. Many plays in the history of theatre have struggled to perfect the art of naturalistic style real time. However, through ever changing events in this simple, yet flowing production, Lucy Kirkwood, without a doubt, nailed it.
Tommaso Manca Di Villahermosa and Darius Ostovar