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The Children

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Retired people are like nuclear power stations. They like to live by the sea. Two retired nuclear scientists in an isolated cottage by the sea as the world around them crumbles. Then an old friend arrives with a frightening request. Lucy Kirkwood's previous plays include Chimerica (winner of the Olivier Award for Best Play, the Evening Standard Award, the Critics' Circle Bes Retired people are like nuclear power stations. They like to live by the sea. Two retired nuclear scientists in an isolated cottage by the sea as the world around them crumbles. Then an old friend arrives with a frightening request. Lucy Kirkwood's previous plays include Chimerica (winner of the Olivier Award for Best Play, the Evening Standard Award, the Critics' Circle Best New Play Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize), small hours, NSFW, and it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now. The Children premiered at the Royal Court, London, in November 2016 and will receive its US premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in the fall of 2017.


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Retired people are like nuclear power stations. They like to live by the sea. Two retired nuclear scientists in an isolated cottage by the sea as the world around them crumbles. Then an old friend arrives with a frightening request. Lucy Kirkwood's previous plays include Chimerica (winner of the Olivier Award for Best Play, the Evening Standard Award, the Critics' Circle Bes Retired people are like nuclear power stations. They like to live by the sea. Two retired nuclear scientists in an isolated cottage by the sea as the world around them crumbles. Then an old friend arrives with a frightening request. Lucy Kirkwood's previous plays include Chimerica (winner of the Olivier Award for Best Play, the Evening Standard Award, the Critics' Circle Best New Play Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize), small hours, NSFW, and it felt empty when the heart went at first but it is alright now. The Children premiered at the Royal Court, London, in November 2016 and will receive its US premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club in the fall of 2017.

30 review for The Children

  1. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Update: 2/13/21: It seems like Kirkwood can do it all, from grand large scale epics like Chimerica, to this three hander chamber piece, strongly reminiscent of Strindberg's The Dance of Death. How does one follow a multi-award-winning three-hour epic on US/China relations ('Chimerica')? If you are the brilliant 32 year old Ms. Kirkwood, surely one of the most accomplished contemporary playwrights, you compose a deceptively simple three-hander which examines how baby boomer privilege fares in the Update: 2/13/21: It seems like Kirkwood can do it all, from grand large scale epics like Chimerica, to this three hander chamber piece, strongly reminiscent of Strindberg's The Dance of Death. How does one follow a multi-award-winning three-hour epic on US/China relations ('Chimerica')? If you are the brilliant 32 year old Ms. Kirkwood, surely one of the most accomplished contemporary playwrights, you compose a deceptively simple three-hander which examines how baby boomer privilege fares in the face of apocalyptic uncertainty. Currently playing its premiere production at the Royal Court, the play offers a wealth of dramatic and comic opportunities for its 65+ age cast. Bizarrely, the same day I read this, reports surfaced that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster (which apparently was the inspiration for this play), had reached the US shores! Kirkwood's play also owes obvious debt to many of Ibsen's issue plays, as well as perhaps Strindberg's 'Dance of Death', and is just as thought-provoking. Also see: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/201....

  2. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    A 4.5 rating would be more accurate - for it's definitely more than a 4 but somehow a slightly nervous/unsure full 5-star-rating. The cover of the play/book is pretty misleading though - there's no such scene in the play. The whole play starts and ends in Robin and Hazel's house. It starts off a little slow but it quickly gets interesting once Robin enters the house - which is when everything starts to 'make sense'. Really enjoyed this one, and I'm excited to read more of Kirkwood's work. Would A 4.5 rating would be more accurate - for it's definitely more than a 4 but somehow a slightly nervous/unsure full 5-star-rating. The cover of the play/book is pretty misleading though - there's no such scene in the play. The whole play starts and ends in Robin and Hazel's house. It starts off a little slow but it quickly gets interesting once Robin enters the house - which is when everything starts to 'make sense'. Really enjoyed this one, and I'm excited to read more of Kirkwood's work. Would have loved seeing this played out in a theatre, but a shame I never did get to. Also, the thematic significance of the play is rather relevant to today's global crisis methinks.

  3. 5 out of 5

    emily

    Brought back lots of good memories of seeing the stage production in London.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    Three meaty roles for actors in their sixties; two of them women. A single location/set, which makes this show highly appealing to a theater with a smaller budget or facility. The trickiest tech aspects are: 1. a table just tilted enough that an apple rolls off it, and 2. water creeping across the floor from a plumbing mishap. Community theaters tend to omit accents when possible, but it might be difficult in this case, because one of the characters moved to America for some time, and the charac Three meaty roles for actors in their sixties; two of them women. A single location/set, which makes this show highly appealing to a theater with a smaller budget or facility. The trickiest tech aspects are: 1. a table just tilted enough that an apple rolls off it, and 2. water creeping across the floor from a plumbing mishap. Community theaters tend to omit accents when possible, but it might be difficult in this case, because one of the characters moved to America for some time, and the characters remark about American words/phrases that have sneaked into her speech patterns. This is a character driven play, which tackles issues familiar to folks in that stage of their lives: Grown children gone amok, past relationships, consequences of long ago actions, mortality, and the ethical quandary of "What do we owe others?" It's not heavy-handed in addressing these questions, and the characters come across as genuine and flawed. It's a show guaranteed to provoke audience discussion long after they leave the theatre.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Harry McDonald

    A good example of a text being elevated by great performances; Kirkwood writes brilliant dialogue and great character, and her craft is impeccable, but nothing particularly groundbreaking or stunning about this one. A solid piece of work on its own terms.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    ‘And I thought, that woman holds up the world’. A concise, atmospheric little play about the grandest problems we face as a species.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin

    Wow. My favourite play I have read to date. The simplicity of one scene, the three characters full of individuated personality, the funny dialogue, and the backdrop of a devastating environmental catastrophe make for an absolutely awesome read.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Frank

    Lucy Kirkwood's play is a powerful consideration of aging and responsibility to the future. Rose, a retired nuclear scientist, has come to visit former colleagues Hazel and Robin, who live just outside an area contaminated by a nuclear power plant accident. There's a hint of science fiction here, but the real focus is the interplay of the characters. Rose had an affair with Robin in the past and never really got along with Hazel. Now she's returned to ask them to make a huge sacrifice in the nam Lucy Kirkwood's play is a powerful consideration of aging and responsibility to the future. Rose, a retired nuclear scientist, has come to visit former colleagues Hazel and Robin, who live just outside an area contaminated by a nuclear power plant accident. There's a hint of science fiction here, but the real focus is the interplay of the characters. Rose had an affair with Robin in the past and never really got along with Hazel. Now she's returned to ask them to make a huge sacrifice in the name of the future. It's a powerful drama with great opportunities for imagery and terrific roles for older actors (I saw Canadian legend Fiona Reid play Rose in Toronto). Any theatre wanting to showcase its older acting pool should consider this.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Henry Fosdike

    Exactly the sort of play I enjoy - a pacey triple header which slowly untangles the lives of the characters involved and just how they relate to one another. There's nothing truly groundbreaking about The Children but it's an accomplished piece and a solid piece of writing. Very enjoyable. Exactly the sort of play I enjoy - a pacey triple header which slowly untangles the lives of the characters involved and just how they relate to one another. There's nothing truly groundbreaking about The Children but it's an accomplished piece and a solid piece of writing. Very enjoyable.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Neylan

    As ever, Lucy Kirkwood's shimmering, hilarious dialogue turns what might have been a horribly worthy play into a fun night out. The messages are still there, but this is a night of entertainment. Kirkwood really is very good indeed. As ever, Lucy Kirkwood's shimmering, hilarious dialogue turns what might have been a horribly worthy play into a fun night out. The messages are still there, but this is a night of entertainment. Kirkwood really is very good indeed.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sasha

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I actually really liked this play; it’s definitely one of the better ones I’ve read. The whole thing feels very natural, not really staged and false. I think this is largely due to the way Kirkwood has written it. Most of the play is dialogue but it is very much written as a natural conversation - there are little interruptions that you get when over at someone’s house like being asked if you want tea, the speakers go off on a tangent sometimes, people go to the loo, the phone rings etc. This al I actually really liked this play; it’s definitely one of the better ones I’ve read. The whole thing feels very natural, not really staged and false. I think this is largely due to the way Kirkwood has written it. Most of the play is dialogue but it is very much written as a natural conversation - there are little interruptions that you get when over at someone’s house like being asked if you want tea, the speakers go off on a tangent sometimes, people go to the loo, the phone rings etc. This all feels wholly realistic to me and I didn’t feel the need for lots of stage directions. The conversation flowed nicely without being bogged down by all that. There are only three characters in the entire play and one setting so it can seem slow to start at first as you’re wondering where this conversation between old friends is going. This does make it intriguing though because there are clearly things that are being avoided and I wanted to know what these were. Robin’s arrival definitely starts to move the play along from the polite chat to the real story of the friends and their reunion. The characters didn’t really read as though in their sixties to me. Although I knew their age, my mind kept conjuring up younger people perhaps in their 40s. Maybe this was because the dialogue read young to me, I don’t know. They did keep referring to ‘the children’ despite them being fully grown and whilst they’re obviously still Robin and Hazel’s children, I couldn’t disassociate the words with small children like the one on the front cover. The idea of a group of elderly people sacrificing themselves so that younger people can live full and happy lives is inherently sad. This isn’t revealed until quite late in the play and after hearing about them wanting to make the most of the time they have left, it is both heartbreaking and noble. The play evokes pity, most notably for Hazel whom I feel has always been second best to Rose and known it. I think she just wanted to live out the remainder of her life with the husband she is so desperately in love with and now even that is being taken away from her. It is a sad play but with happy and comical moments. I highly recommend reading it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jim Stiles

    I ordered this because the theatre I am on the Board of was doing it and I had a sense this was one I wanted to read first. I am glad I did - there is so much in this three character text. Mirkwood has written other powerful places but this is a real tour-de-force when you have strong actors. Sadly for the wonderful Boston actors who brought this to a brilliant performance at Speakeasy their run was cut in half by the pandemic and the closing of the Boston theatres. The performance lives in memo I ordered this because the theatre I am on the Board of was doing it and I had a sense this was one I wanted to read first. I am glad I did - there is so much in this three character text. Mirkwood has written other powerful places but this is a real tour-de-force when you have strong actors. Sadly for the wonderful Boston actors who brought this to a brilliant performance at Speakeasy their run was cut in half by the pandemic and the closing of the Boston theatres. The performance lives in memory , but the text fortunately can be relived time and again.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna Kravchuk

    I do think that exploiting the theme of a power plant gone wrong is way too banal and easy. Like using a dying dog to provoke tears, that sort of thing. That said, the play is written beautifully, it makes you feel, it poses questions, offers thoughts but doesn't take the "agree with my omnipotent righteousness or be ashamed of yourself forever" role. Despite the theme, the play manages to stay delicate, strong but almost fragile. I do think that exploiting the theme of a power plant gone wrong is way too banal and easy. Like using a dying dog to provoke tears, that sort of thing. That said, the play is written beautifully, it makes you feel, it poses questions, offers thoughts but doesn't take the "agree with my omnipotent righteousness or be ashamed of yourself forever" role. Despite the theme, the play manages to stay delicate, strong but almost fragile.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    This play is brilliant; a heartbreaking, non-melodramatic moral choice to end all choices; and a wonderful depiction of realized, alive senior characters. When do we stop being responsible for our children and the world we've made for them? When is enough enough? Gutsy, with twinkles of fun amid the darkness. This play is brilliant; a heartbreaking, non-melodramatic moral choice to end all choices; and a wonderful depiction of realized, alive senior characters. When do we stop being responsible for our children and the world we've made for them? When is enough enough? Gutsy, with twinkles of fun amid the darkness.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jelena

    A short play written in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster, The Children grapples with the ethical implications of personal and social responsibility in risking lives to clean up a crisis. I found it to be an interesting take on death and aging, and a good read if you are interested in environmentalism, contemporary feminist theatre, and moral ambiguity.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mindy

    s Just saw the play last week in the Berkshires, then read the full text. So well-written, poignant, tragi-comic, not a diatribe or a sermon (and I gave lots of those over the years!), but a portrait of human selfishness and selflessness, and human strengths and weaknesses. Read it and see the play if you can!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    I have to say this one did nothing for me. I liked the initial conceit of the play, but that was about it. There wasn't enough information about the characters, so the dialogue felt unrealistic, and over all the whole thing didn't really work. I have to say this one did nothing for me. I liked the initial conceit of the play, but that was about it. There wasn't enough information about the characters, so the dialogue felt unrealistic, and over all the whole thing didn't really work.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Lesperance

    Saw the play at the Belfrey Theatre. Interesting concept, i like how the characters’ names contrast with the topics addressed in the play but it got to the point where i was like k i want to go home now can we wrap this up. Good.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    Like an ecodisaster movie crossed with an unaired chapter of HBO’s Chernobyl crossed with a sexagenarian love triangle. A meditation on what the outgoing generation owes the incoming, as well as a rumination on what the present owes the past owes the future. Pretty good.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Katelen

    Haunting! Probably shouldn't have read this as I was forced to stay on campus during a pandemic because the older generation sees me as a source of income, but you could argue that was the best time to read it. Haunting! Probably shouldn't have read this as I was forced to stay on campus during a pandemic because the older generation sees me as a source of income, but you could argue that was the best time to read it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Callum Morris-Horne

    Thought-provoking portrait of the intergenerational Impact of nuclear catastrophe. Read for my dissertation. Very funny at times , others tragic and touching. Ethically complex; Resurfacing envies and desires in the face of sacrifice. Would love to see this performed.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sean

    Of course I'd rather see this in performance -- what reads as a love triangle is much more creepy in the bigger scope. And the meaning behind the play's title is shattering. Of course I'd rather see this in performance -- what reads as a love triangle is much more creepy in the bigger scope. And the meaning behind the play's title is shattering.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jackie

    Oh gosh, wouldn’t it be great if the people who wrecked the world mounted a suicide mission to fix it?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sammie

    well written existential dread bringing back memories of extremely well staged existential dread!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Siouxsie

    Great story! Full of surprises. It felt a bit “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” at times. Claustrophobic and sinister relationships. Very interesting!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kathryn Huff

    This play wasn't really about nuclear power. This play was more about humans, vanity, mortality salience, and responsibility. This play wasn't really about nuclear power. This play was more about humans, vanity, mortality salience, and responsibility.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Red

    Incredible play!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Vivian

    lovely. a filthy glitter suspended. apocalypse of aging. living on the coast - erosion - the type of woman reading until 4 am. church bells ringing from under the water, distorted but unmistakable.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    A heavy story that has a lot of production challenges. I like the twists. I almost want to say 3 stars but I felt the timing was so well written.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tom Elliott

    Just another enjoyable post-tsunami sexagenarian nuclear scientist love triangle.

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