The small cast directed by Andrew Panton are fantastic. Consisting of Irene MacDougall as the relentlessly regimented Hazel, Emily Winter as the complex and quirky Rose, and Barrie Hunter as the flirtatious and jokey Robin, all three cast members deliver fully realised and startlingly complex performances. Portraying situations spanning from marital bickering to existential crises, the range of emotions displayed is staggering and they all remain constantly realistic and full of depth. The excellent acting not only makes the characters feel real, but also makes their stories and struggles all the more devastating.
The tensions and conflicts between the characters are particularly striking. The fast-paced, witty dialogue – punctuated with sly, quintessentially British jibes about exercise and fruit salad – is brilliantly delivered. Despite being a long play (110 minutes with no intermission), the pacing is excellent. The discussion within the drama remains constantly intriguing and revealing, with the effect being the audience hangs on every word, hoping to unravel the mysteries of each character’s intentions.
The juxtaposition of mundane everyday actions – of making tea, discussing routines, and sharing memories – with the power cuts and lingering nuclear fallout makes a very difficult subject relatable and recognisable. The concept of wanting too much and learning to live without is something that feels all the more poignant in light of COVID-19 and is skilfully dealt with, leaving the audience to ask themselves how they would act in the face of imminent danger and potential death.
The staging is immersive and excellently crafted. The interior of the seaside cottage feels intimate and perfectly lends itself to the confessions and intricacies of the human experience displayed on stage. The home feels lived in, adding an extra layer of familiarity and warmth that makes the action even more captivating.
To humanise a crisis many can’t imagine is a huge task, yet it is more than achieved by The Children. Paired with the incredibly conceived characters that are performed with unimpeachable grace and complexity, this play is devastating, fascinating, and highly effective.