The Children – Nottingham Playhouse

Reviewer: James Garrington

Writer: Lucy Kirkwood

Director: Kirsty Patrick Ward

On the face of it, it’s an ordinary kitchen. A bit dated, perhaps, but nothing really odd – though most kitchens wouldn’t have all those camping lamps about, or candles, or shelves and surfaces that are quite that cluttered. Maybe there is a feeling of something slightly strange after all. Then an apple placed on the table rolls towards the edge. There’s definitely an unsettling feeling here – and it’s a feeling that intensifies as things progress, as more details emerge.

This is where Hazel and her husband Robin live, and the kitchen is the location for the events that take place when Hazel and Robin’s friend Rose arrives for an unexpected visit. Over the course of an evening they talk, they reminisce. Things come out, words are spoken and details about their past relationship are revealed. Why exactly has Rose come to visit? They haven’t seen each other for many, many years. Then she comes out with a proposition that threatens to alter their entire lives.

This is a multi-layered and multi-themed drama from Lucy Kirkwood. In some ways it’s a classic domestic drama though as the play progresses it delves ever deeper into wider themes. Questions are raised about family, relationships and sustainability (appropriate as this is Nottingham Playhouse’s first Green Book production on the auditorium stage, marking a significant step on the journey towards Net Carbon Zero) – what are we doing to the planet, what are the implications, and just how far are we prepared to go for the sake of our children, other people? What is too much to ask us to do to support our partner? How long can people live quite literally on the edge?

It all makes for an intense 100 minutes of theatre. It’s an intensity that builds as the play progresses though, with many humorous moments along the way in a piece that starts as something almost like a comedy. There’s some fine performances here from the cast of three too. Though polite towards her visitor, Caroline Harker’s Hazel harbours a resentment that can be clearly felt. Rose (Sally Dexter) as the visitor on a mission tries to get along with everyone despite anything that may have happened in the past, while Clive Mantle’s Robin treads carefully between the two. They’re seldom off stage, and it’s a delight to watch the changing dynamics between the three characters.

Amy Jane Cook’s set is a gem with small details everywhere and Kirkwood’s script does a masterful job of keeping things light while building towards some serious messages, with beautifully drawn characters.

It’s not always easy watching, but this is a piece of theatre that will make you think and ask yourself questions about what you would or wouldn’t do – and raises some essential questions for the future of our planet. Well worth a visit.

Runs until 6 April 2024

An important piece of theatre

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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