Thursday, August 31, 2023



 The Children by Lucy Kirkwood. 

Directed by Tony Knight. Assistant director Sophie Benassi. Assistant director/Production manager Bel Henderson. Production Assistant Sebastian Winter Lighting design Stephen Still. Sound design Neville Pye. Vocal Coach Sarah Chalmers. Choreography Ylaria Rogers. Stage manager Sophis Carlton Chaika Theatre. ACT HUB. August 31 – September 9 2023. Bookings: 62108748 or ACTHUB.COM.AU

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


Karen Vickery (Hazel), Michael Sparks (Robin),
Lainie Hart (Rose). Tony Knight (Director of The Children)

There are two reasons why it is imperative that you see Chaika Theatre’s production of Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children before the season ends on September 9th. One is to experience Kirkwood’s portentous play about the dire consequences of climate change, nuclear disaster and  intergenerational responsibility. The second is to witness under the astute direction of Tony Knight three of the finest performances from Karen Vickery, Lainie Hart and Michael Sparks that you are likely to see on a Canberra stage.

Michael Sparks, Karen Vickery and Lainie Hart in The Children

Kirkwood’s play is set in a cottage on the Eastern coast of England close to a nuclear plant. Physicists Hazel (Karen Vickery) and her husband Robin (Michael Sparks) have moved into the cottage after an earthquake, tidal wave and nuclear disaster forced them from their home to seek refuge in the nearby cottage. Ruth (Lainie Hart) returns from America and pays a visit to her friends whom she has not seen for thirty years supposedly. Kirkwood’s single setting in the cottage over a course of a day allows an audience to focus intently on the issues confronting the characters and by association the consequences of their actions on future generations, the children of today and tomorrow. The 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan puts The Children into sharp focus as a prescient warning to a society consumed by self-interest and consumerism. Kirkwood adroitly unleashes the tension that underlies the seemingly innocent interaction between old friends until each character is forced to confront their hidden secrets and desires, their age and their duty to future generations. Towards the end of the play Hazel screams out “I don’t know how to want less!” She believes that life is growth but what if that growth leads to destruction, just as sexual infidelity can instigate a destructive force in relationships. Consequently Kirkwood presents a dilemma that demands a confrontation with one’s personal desire and the responsibility that the three characters have to the welfare of future generations. Robin and Rose are compelled to accept their duty. Hazel desperately battles to resist Rose’s importation. But in the end the three physicists are forced to realize that science and personal responsibility is the only answer. Kirkwood’s dialogue resonates with the complex reality of human nature as the narrative unfolds to its powerful conclusion. The characters laugh, cry, rage and grapple with the enormity of their predicament. The audience is irrevocably drawn into the moral and ethical dilemmas that the characters face.

The Children is a play that tests the ingenuity and imagination of every actor. Knight directs his stellar actors with an intuitive understanding of the actor’s craft. Each of his actors construct a reality that is at times humourous, at times achingly painful and always visceral. Vickery’s Hazel clings to her desire for a long and fulsome life in the face of a terrible reality. Hart’s Rose hides a secret purpose and a private torment that eventually cannot remain concealed. Sparks’s Robin exposes a fragility, shrouded in pathos and guilt. Each emerges as a victim of their loss. With actors the calibre of Vickery, Hart and Sparks, The Children is a monumental theatrical tour de force. To see three of Canberra’s finest actors bring Kirkwood’s prophetic play to life at the hands of a sensitive and  insightful director is a not to be missed theatrical experience. With such a short season Chaika’s production of The Children should play to a full house every night!

Photos by Jane Duong