This drama begins after a tragedy, since the worst has already happened – a Fukushima-level or worse nuclear plant disaster in a coastal English town. The play’s story largely follows a trio of people dealing with the aftermath. Though not without humor, The Children is heavy going, but intelligent and humane enough to reward the effort.
Given the nature of the disaster, it is no coincidence that all three characters are nuclear engineers. It is also thematically important to the play that they are all retired scientists. Married couple Hazel (Deborah Findlay) and Robin (Ron Cook), who worked at the plant, are visited by old friend Rose (Francesca Annis). Rose has some highly personal issues to settle with both of them before she moves on to a larger issue later in the play (which I won’t spoil).
This quietly naturalistic three-hander is inevitably all about the acting, and it is truly superior. Annis brings to Rose a fading sensuality – she is quite self-conscious that the sexuality which played a big part in her life is on the wane. Cook is given a rogue of a man to portray, but anchors all the performance to Robin’s surprisingly ethical core (Sidebar: there was a significant portion of the play that felt a bit, well, anthropological to me, since the way straight people deal with sex roles has always been fundamentally strange to me).
Hazel is the character on whom the plot and theme both hinge – she has the biggest arc – Deborah Findley gives great nuance to a woman who is simultaneously rigorously practical and helplessly selfish. James Macdonald’s direction is so seamless that not a single moment seems writerly or forced, and as easy as that may sound on paper, I can tell you it’s devilishly difficult. Recommended.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.