Friday, September 1, 2023



Written By Lucy Kirkwood

Directed by Tony Knight

Presented by Chaika Theatre

ACT Hub Theatre, Kingston to 9 September


Reviewed by Len Power 31 August 2023


What would be your priorities in the aftermath of a nuclear accident?  This question hangs over three people in British playwright, Lucy Kirkwood’s thought-provoking 2016 play, ‘The Children’.

Two retired nuclear physicists live in a remote cottage. They have moved there to be out of the exclusion zone of a nuclear power station where there has been a serious incident.  Life now has its restrictions like power failures and radiation-contaminated food and water but they cope as cheerfully as they can.  A third nuclear physicist and old friend from years ago suddenly joins them, but why is she here?

Clearly inspired by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear explosion in Japan, Kirkwood’s play poses a number of uncomfortable questions.  Written before the Covid epidemic, we nevertheless can relate to the problems that arise when life is restricted unexpectedly with no clear end in sight.  In spite of the downbeat situation, there is a surprising amount of humour in the play.

Kirkwood’s play impresses with its vivid characters and lively, realistic dialogue.  It also forces us to consider what our actions might be under similar circumstances and what decisions we would have to make.  Our behaviours on the surface may be very different to our hidden personal feelings.

Assisted by Sophie Benassi, the director, Tony Knight, has assembled a highly capable cast of three of Canberra’s top actors who bring these characters to life with their surface interaction but also their inner thoughts and feelings.  Karen Vickery, Michael Sparks and Lainie Hart all give memorable performances of extraordinary depth.

Michael Sparks, Karen Vickery and Lainie Hart

The set design is uncredited but it was impressive in its colours and simplicity and helped the cast to keep the audience focus on the dialogue. The effective sound design by Neville Pye combines everyday sounds with a threatening overall atmosphere.

Lucy Kirkwood’s play demonstrates why she is considered to be one of the ‘hottest’ British playwrights today.  Tony Knight’s direction and the performances of his actors bring it all memorably to life.


Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at