State Theatre Company South Australia. Dunstan Playhouse. 6 Feb 2024
Post Fukushima, the monstrous possibilities of tidal waves versus nuclear power stations have lurked in our minds.
Such a nuclear disaster is backdrop to Lucy Kirkwood’s play, The Children.
It pits the responsibility of one generation for another: our children inheriting the consequences of our eras.
To that end, retired nuclear physicists Robin and Hazel live on in the exclusion zone of the devastated nuclear power plant that they helped to build. Robin uses his radiation detector as he brings in objects from the danger zone wherein his cows still reside with undrinkable milk. Electricity comes and goes in brown-out schedules as the couple pursue their retirement domestica, Hazel using yoga as her health regime and Robin concocting potent home-made wines. Then, their former friend and colleague, Rose, turns up out of the blue and a tangle of old loose ends begins to untwine.
Kirkwood’s script is quite dense but, with Corey McMahon’s light directorial touch and the consummate skills of three seasoned actors, it delivers from the darkness of its predicament a sense of human vivacity and the power of love.
One may describe it as a dystopian kitchen sink drama since it is set in a well-used kitchen which dominates designer Victoria Lamb’s weathered country house interior. Nic Mollison complements this atmosphere of fatalistic resolution with a canny lighting plot featuring candlelight and a bright fresh-air back door by which the visitor, Rose, sits to smoke. The unpredictability of electricity is nigh on another character in the play.
Oddly, the characters are not inherently likeable. They reveal loads of emotional baggage and personal agendas and the audience’s attachment to them swings with the rise and fall of their interactions. This, of course, is one of the strengths of the play. For almost two unbroken hours, one is engaged and expectant. And it does not disappoint.
Three stars dominate the stage. Genevieve Mooy is Hazel, the extrovert, a grandmother dithering in a life of brave denial. She is strident, quirky, and oft-times gorgeously funny. Tina Bursill is the visitor, Rose, delivered impeccably as cool, calculating, patient, and duplicitous. Terence Crawford plays Robin, Hazel’s adoring and/or long-suffering spouse who perchance weaponises his alcohol to mute the reality of their predicament. All three actors bring a credible complexity of dimensions to their characters, but Crawford’s is the tour-de force performance.
When: 6 to 17 Feb
Where: Dunstan Playhouse