Sat in a comfortable theatre just a few miles away from a former nuclear power station and the site of Europe's largest nuclear processing plant, surrounded by sheep farms that were put under restrictions following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the setting of The Children could not have been in a more perfect location for its regional premiere, writes Karen Morley-Chesworth.
However, it is not the external dangers, destruction and erosion of what we know, but the internal fears of regret, ageing and death the three retired nuclear engineers face which has the greatest impact.
Like life itself, there is no stopping this rollercoaster ride through the past, present and tumbling into the fearful certainty of the future. This one-act play keeps going until the inevitable end. There's no opportunity to press the pause button and take time out to assess or rewind. For me, the accelerating pace of the play, peeling back the years of lies, hopes and plans to reveal the tragedy of the present is compelling.
Hazel and Robin met at the nuclear power station, she fell pregnant, they married and to all the world had a 'normal' family life - kids, grandkids, and retirement on an organic farm.
All has changed for them since an accident at the plant caused a tidal wave and radiation leak - affecting their own farm. When their former co-worker Rose turns up unexpectedly 30-something years later, they are forced to face what they have done and what they should do now - for the sake of the children, the next generation.
This trio of actors bring normality and authenticity to the play - and the setting, in the intimate Studio Theatre is perfect. We are in that kitchen with them, the outside contamination creeping into the heart of the home as cancer grows.
Maggie O'Brien as engineer-come-superwoman housewife Hazel brings this character to life. You don't feel sorry for her but admire her strength in adversity. She is the energetic young gran at the school gate, with enthusiasm for life. Her style of acting is so natural, you forget you are in the theatre.
Patrick Driver as Robin has the same style of presentation, a realism that makes you feel you are watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary rather than a play. They make these characters so real - you feel you've met them before. Together the spark between O'Brian and Driver is mesmerising. Throw in the third excellent actor and you have a trio of theatrical brilliance.
Rachel Laurence as Rose brings a touch of glamour, style and sophistication. Her dress, movements and hair are reminiscent of Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction - especially in the dance scene. Her reappearance brings the past into the present, as the accident brings their former working lives into their future.
The characters are so relatable, the themes universal, the situation so terrifying and unique to these characters.
The Children by Lucy Kirkwood is an excellent piece of work which makes you think about the future from the position of post-middle-age. This is a definite must play for baby-boomers to relate to and for the younger generation to understand.
The Children by Lucy Kirkwood runs at The Studio, Theatre by the Lake until 1st November 2019. For more information and to book tickets visit www.theatrebythelake.com
Reviewer: Karen Morley-Chesworth
Reviewed: 12th June 2019
North West End Rating: ★★★★★