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Criterion Theatre
The Children (2019)
Written by Lucy Kirkwood
Sat 26th January to Sat 2nd February

“Retired people are like nuclear power stations. We like to live by the sea.”

Director – Brian Emeney
Production Photos
Rose – Annie Gay
Hazel – Christine Ingall
Robin – Brian Emeney
Assistant Director – Christine Evans
Stage Manager – Nikki Gabriel
Set Designer – Christopher Hernon
Artwork Design – Paul Chokran
Artwork Design – Emma Withers
Lighting Design – Karl Stafford
Sound Design – Dave Cornish
Props – Les Rahilly
Wardrobe – Christine Evans
Set Build – Terry Cornwall
Set Build – Frances Dixon
Set Build – James Folkard
Set Build – Ruth Folkard
Set Build – Chris Hernon
Set Build – Jenson Jones
Set Build – Nicola Newman
Set Build – Terry Rahilly
Set Build – Simon Sharpe
Set Build – Mandy Sutton
Set Build – Mike Waterson
Set Build – Kevin Woods
Set Painting – Paul Chokran
Set Painting – Milly Hesketh
Set Painting – Johnny Smythe
Sound Operation – Dave Cornish
Lighting Team – Lily Barber
Lighting Team – Alice Cobert
Lighting Team – Karl Stafford
Prompt – Jonathan Rees
Hazel and Robin, two retired nuclear scientists live in a cottage on the English coast and seek to preserve some semblance of normality in the wake of a disaster at a local power station. They still listen to Radio 4, dance to James Brown, practise yoga and keep in touch with the family. But when Rose, a fellow nuclear scientist they haven’t seen for 38 years suddenly turns up, their precariously ordered existence is disrupted. Has Rose come to reignite her old affair with Robin or does she have some darker purpose? As the old friends share a bottle of wine and reflect on the choices they have made in their lives, disturbing questions are raised.




This award winning play used an intimate domestic setting to raise big issues; in particular how people in the future will react to the poisoned legacy of the present.




Press Quotes:


“A far-reaching, unsettling play about legacy, survival and responsibility ... deceptively lightly written and often tartly funny ... ”The Guardian


“... the play has a pressing, provocative question at its heart – about the responsibility of the older generation towards the younger... [this] is Fukushima meets The Archers, and it's marvellous.” The Daily Telegraph




Ron Cook, our Patron who created the role of Robin when it was first staged in 2016 at The Royal Court Theatre writes:


“[I am reminded] of how much I owe to the Criterion and Geoff Bennett for helping me to fall in love with theatre. The production of ‘The Children’ transferred the production to Broadway in November 2017 where we ran for a limited season of four months at the Samuel J Friedman Theatre. It was hugely successful and received two Tony nominations. One for best new play and Deborah Findlay for best featured actress in a play.”




There was smoking on stage under The Smoke-free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007.




This amateur production of 'The Children' was presented by arrangement with Nick Hern Books. 

Review by Chris Arnot 

The kitchen clock is ticking . Well, at least the hands are moving, more likely to be powered by battery than old-fashioned clockwork. Or, indeed, electricity.
Sources of power and the passage of time are among the many issues raised in Lucy Kirkwood’s play that made its debut at the Royal Court just three years ago. Explosively thought-provoking might be one way of describing it.
The severe cracks in the wall either side of the clock are but the most obvious evidence that there has been an explosion at the nearby nuclear power station. A Geiger counter crackling alarmingly when waved over a grandchild’s toy scooter is more disturbingly symbolic, however.
What’s the future for the child for whom that scooter should be an innocent means of transport? And what about his or her parents? The ones we see on stage are the grandparents, Robin and Hazel. They are now in their mid-to-late 60s. Former nuclear scientists both, they worked at the nearby power station. So did Rose, the only other member of the cast, who comes a calling on her former colleagues for the first time in well over 30 years.
That’s what Hazel likes to pretend anyway. It soon becomes evident that Robin and Rose have being seeing each other far more recently.
Christine Ingall captures the sense of Hazel’s self-assurance and lust for life being undermined – not just by the explosion but the arrival of an unexpected threat to her status as a wife, mother and grand-mother. The nuclear family, as well as nuclear power, is one of many themes of Kirkwood’s play.
Rose may have been a femme fatale but she has no children of her own. No breasts of her own either since cancer took its toll. Nonetheless she still smokes.
What’s more, she apparently wants to go back to work at the power station and try to help clear up the mess left by her generation to the ones that follow. Annie Gay takes on the part, exuding a complex mixture of wistfulness for the past and nervousness for the future underscored by a “what-the-hell” sense that it’s all over.
As for Brian Emeney, he plays the roguish Robin with a bravado broken up by bluster as he tries to cope not only with the consequences of having wife and lover glowering across a kitchen offering little in the way of home comforts. Salad and crackers for supper, washed down with parsnip wine. Yum-yum.
Brian has also directed the play, albeit with the help of assistant director Christine Evans and a clever set design by Christopher Hernon.
The Royal Court in Sloane Square, Chelsea, has never backed away from putting on complex new works exploring the way we live and the legacy we leave. Perhaps the same could be said about the Critrerion in slightly less fashionable Berkeley Road South, Earlsdon.
Review by Nick Le Mesurier
“Retired people are like nuclear power station: we like to live by the sea.” So says Hazel (Christine Ingall), one of three retired nuclear scientists to Rose (Annie Gay), who has turned up unexpectedly at their remote cottage to disrupt the lives of her and her husband Robin (Brian Emeney). The backstory forms the substance of Lucy Kirkwood’s award-winning play, 'The Children', but it’s the consequence that carries the punch. It’s one that says much about the responsibility of an older generation to a younger.
The danger for these three comes only partly from within their relationship. We soon learn that Rose once had an affair with Robin and that some of the old flame still burns. But that’s not the reason she’s there, though it helps her mission. She needs both Robin and Hazel for something more heroic, more terrible than a mere tryst. But we only gradually come to learn what it is.
It’s very tempting to give away the secret, because so much of the play hangs on it. But to do so would spoil the pleasure and the significance of this slow-burning drama. Instead I’ll point to the slowly mounting sense of tension that builds to a crescendo as the relationship between the three develops. I’ll give a nod to the strange world the characters inhabit, a post-apocalyptic world that has been not so much shattered as distorted by an explosion at the nearby nuclear power station where they once worked. The characters now struggle at the limits of the exclusion zone. But this is no 'Mad Max' scenario, and there is none of the cold apocalypse of Cormac McCarthy’s 'The Road'. Instead there is bread and salad for lunch, the phones work, the taxis still run, and there is Radio 4 on the wind-up radio. But there is danger nevertheless. A Geiger counter is now part of the regular household equipment, and on the smallholding, to which Robin goes daily, his work is to bury their beloved cattle.
The play would be extremely ponderous were it not for some fine characterisation and some sharp dialogue and lively performances. Brian Emeney’s direction nicely balances the middle-class sensibilities that are now a vital means of preserving some sense of normalcy against the catastrophe they are now facing. Christine Ingall’s Hazel in particular engages us with her sensible, slightly motherly instincts pushed to their limits by the unwelcome intrusion from Rose and her mission. She shows herself both funny and deeply torn by the demands placed upon her. Annie Gay’s Rose is cool, almost too cool, but has already had her own brush with death and has little to lose. I would have liked her to be a bit tougher in her character to create a greater contrast with the other two, but she showed her character to have courage at the end. Brian Emeney plays Robin with an outwardly strong but inwardly malleable sensibility that is seduced by two powerful attractions, both of which will have irreversible consequences for him as he makes a choice that is nobler and more selfish than anything he has done before.
A long three-hander like this requires the actors to have a rapport that is so deep it is instinctive and uncanny. Perhaps because I saw it on its first night, I couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t quite there. Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating play honourably delivered and with a great deal to say that is prescient to the responsibilities that an older, and in some ways much more privileged generation, has to a younger one that must cope with the consequences of their elders’ misplaced confidence.
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