Review: The Children ‘is a powerful and thought-provoking play’

PUBLISHED: 12:46 04 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:46 04 December 2019

OVO's The Children at the Maltings Arts Theatre. Picture: Haydn Davis

OVO's The Children at the Maltings Arts Theatre. Picture: Haydn Davis

Haydn Davis

Madeleine Burton reviews OVO’s production of The Children in St Albans.

OVO presented The Children at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Haydn DavisOVO presented The Children at the Maltings Arts Theatre in St Albans. Picture: Haydn Davis

It seems something of a contradiction in terms for a play about a post-nuclear disaster to be funny as well.

But Lucy Kirkwood's award-winning play The Children taps into a well of black humour and makes the apocalyptic subject almost bearable.

And it is to the credit of OVO that their production of The Children at the Maltings Arts Theatre last week captured both those key essences of the play.

Set in a future where a nuclear reactor has been destroyed by an earthquake followed by a tsunami, it is played out in the kitchen of a cottage where retired nuclear scientists Hazel and Robin live as best they can without running water and infrequent electricity.

Into their home unexpectedly comes Rose, a colleague from both their pasts with whom they each have a relationship.

But while it soon emerges that Robin and Rose have been lovers, the visitor is not there to break up his marriage but to put all three of their lives on the line to save others.

The relationship between the trio is paramount as Rose tries to persuade Robin and Hazel to go back to the reactor and take the place of the younger employees who have been put in such a dangerous position by the carelessness of the past.

And that is the crux of The Children - do they have a moral responsibility to go back even though they will probably die or, as Hazel insists, how can that be fair if they have children of their own, one of whom is reliant on them, and therefore have something to live for.

The Children is a powerful and thought-provoking play by a dramatist who writes brilliant dialogue and understands the differing motives under the surface of the characters. As such it needs three very good actors and in Hilary Burns as Rose, Annette Holland as Hazel, and David Widdowson as Robin it has them.

All three roles are challenging - not least because this is a play of one hour and 40 minutes without an interval - and each of them imbues their character with just the right amount of passion in an impossible situation.

To sweep the audience along with both the moral and relationship issues is tribute not just to their acting skills but the talent of director David Bevan as well.

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