Review of The Children by Lucy Kirkwood at the Royal Court Theatre
Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica (launched at the Almeida in 2013 before transferring to the West End, and winning the complete set of Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Theatre Awards for best play) was a big public play that spun an epic portrait of the world out of a single private act of defiance. Her new play The Children is, by contrast, a domestically-scaled work that shows the public effects of something that each of its characters have participated in, as scientists who once worked in a nuclear power factory that has dramatically failed with devastating consequences on the local environment. Think of Japan's 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster and relocate it to Britain.
But Kirkwood's play is at once both smaller and larger than that. On the one hand, it is a bit like Pinter's Old Times, as it revisits an old love triangle between two women and the man one of them is married to but the other has had an affair with. On the other, the returning person Rose suggests a larger responsibility than just marital matters: she has come on a mission to suggest that they return to the damaged plant to take over responsibility for making it safe again from the younger scientists who are compromising their health by doing so.
James Macdonald's production maintains a spiralling sense of palpable unease, and is superbly played by the trio of Francesca Annis, Deborah Findlay and Ron Cook with reservoirs of feeling and fear. This is a brilliant, chilling and genuinely provocative new play.
What the Press Said...
"But, once it shifts into fourth gear, her play grips compulsively. Kirkwood brilliantly contrasts two women with polarised, but equally valid attitudes."
Michael Billington for The Guardian
"It has a pressing, provocative question at its heart – about the responsibility of the older generation towards the younger. But the most apt comparison (rather a shock, given that the play is being staged at the modish Royal Court) would be with The Archers."
Dominic Maxwell for The Telegraph
"The Children consolidates my view that the 32 year old Kirkwood is the most rewarding dramatist of her generation."
Paul Taylor for The Independent