The Children

‘THE CHILDREN’: Ron Cook, Deborah Findlay & Francesca Annis. Photo: Joan Marcus

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THE CHILDREN
Written by Lucy Kirkwood
Directed by James MacDonald
Through February 4, 2018
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 West 47th Street
(212-239-6200), http://www.thechildrenbroadway.com

 

 

By Scott Harrah

Playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children is loosely based on the 2011 nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan. In this provocative but often slow-as-molasses tale set in Great Britain, the story of 60-something retired nuclear engineers unfolds with lots of talky exposition, but fortunately the three cast members (all reprising roles from the original Royal Court Theatre production in London) give performances full of energy and the right amount of shading to make the characters’ tragic fate all too real.

The Children contains enough suspenseful elements and eerie talk of impending, end-of-days doom to make it seem like a modern-day “Twilight Zone” episode. Set in a remote cottage on the English coast, the show opens with Rose (Francesca Annis) standing in the kitchen, suffering a nosebleed. Her friend Hazel (Deborah Findlay) soon arrives to help her, cleaning the woman and offering tea and comfort. It turns out Rose is an old friend and fellow scientist and has been gone 38 years, and there’s a mysterious reason why she has returned decades later. Rose has been to the cottage before, but there’s far more to her story than that.

On the surface, Hazel and husband Robin (Ron Cook) appear to live normal lives as pensioners in their golden years. Hazel has a passion for making healthy food and practicing yoga, while Robin likes to go milk the cows nearby.

Without giving too much away, nothing is as mundane as it seems. An accident has occurred at the nuclear plant Hazel and Robin once worked for, and there are countless after effects, from roads that have been cracked asunder to faulty electricity and issues with toilets and sewage.

At nearly two hours long without an intermission, the show, with many unnecessary scenes, can be a slog to sit through. Director James MacDonald could have easily trimmed about 15 minutes of narrative fat (such as a pointless dance scene to a James Brown classic) to tighten the pace here. In addition, Hazel and Rose’s initial scene goes on interminably.

Ms. Kirkwood packs a lot of conflict into the show, but it feels like a good hour before anything really happens. Fortunately, the lighting and projection design by Peter Mumford and sound design by Max Pappenheim are haunting in all the right places. Best of all, Ms. Annis, Mr. Cook and Ms. Findlay are exquisite even when the material they have been given is not.

 

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published December 14, 2017
Reviewed at December 13, 2017 press performance.

The Children

‘THE CHILDREN’: Ron Cook & Francesca Annis. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Children

‘THE CHILDREN’: (left to right) Ron Cook, Deborah Findlay & Francesca Annis. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Children

‘THE CHILDREN’: Francesca Annis. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Children

‘THE CHILDREN’: Deborah Findlay & Ron Cook. Photo: Joan Marcus

‘THE CHILDREN’: Deborah Findlay. Photo: Joan Marcus

The Children

‘THE CHILDREN’: Ron Cook. Photo: Joan Marcus

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