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A CurtainUp London Review
The Children
"I won't smoke cigarettes and I'll wear suncream and plan the week's meals ahead and get a slow cooker and not just buy sandwiches from petrol stations and I'll keep the bathroom really clean not just give it a wipe when people are coming over . . . .." — Rose
The Children
Francesca Annis as Rose and Ron Cook as Robin (Photo: Johan Persson)
Writing about Lucy Kirkwood's new play at the Royal Court, I found myself deeply affected. It is a play that lingers in the imagination with increasing fear for the world we have created for our children to inherit.

Miriam Buether's set is a simple boxed set of an old fashioned country cottage kitchen but in itself is strangely evocative and attention grabbing. Into this environment comes Rose (Francesca Annis) formerly a nuclear scientist at the local power station which has experienced a meltdown type accident. She is visiting Hazel (Deborah Findlay) and Robin (Ron Cook) on a mission which will be revealed later.

Rose is still a beautiful woman who has had a succession of partners including at one time, Hazel's husband, Robin. So there is a contrast between the two women as well as a rivalry.

Rose was last in contact with Robin and Hazel almost 40 years ago when Lauren their eldest child was a baby. Rose is childless. Much of their conversation is catching up on the intervening years as well as Hazel's explaining what their life has been like since the accident and the privations caused by the lack of electricity. All this is by way of prelude to Rose's request.

As nuclear scientists they have worked on providing the cheap electricity generated from nuclear power stations and now the worst nightmare has materialised and Rose has a suggestion for the other two to make a sacrifice for the sake of others, the children she never had but they have.

Lucy Kirkwood is no stranger to playwriting about big ideas but her skill is in getting us to care about the moral decisions of her characters. Of course these three actors are expert practitioners and with a director like James Macdonald, the issues become lucid and real.

Annis, as ever is stellar, she plays a beautiful person and here her care for the world is in itself beautiful. Deborah Findlay's Hazel is capable and providing, but she doesn't jump at the self sacrifice required, instead weighing the importance of her interventions for others. All of Hazel's planning and care for herself, and others, has been to prolong the quality of her life, to keep in good health from wearing protective sun cream, to eating sensibly and doing yoga. Robin, it will be revealed, has been seen tending to the cows near the exclusion zone around the disaster area but not in quite the way Hazel thinks he has. Together they are aware that their 38 year old daughter is as needy as ever she was as a small child.

Go and see The Children for the chilling situation, the fine direction, the consummate acting and the message that we need to decommission these nuclear power stations before they destroy us all.

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The Children
Written by Lucy Kirkwood
Directed by James Macdonald
Starring: Francesca Annis, Ron Cook, Deborah Findlay
Designed by Miriam Buether
Sound Design: Max Pappenheim
Lighting Design: Peter Mumford
Running time: One hour 55 minutes without an interval
Box Office: 020 7565 5000
Booking to 14th January 2016
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 25th November 2016 performance at Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, Royal Court, Sloane Square, London SW1W 8AS (Tube: Sloane Square)
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