By Sheila Martindale
Monday Magazine reviewer
Hazel is a super career person, a super homemaker, a super mom – a good all-round achiever. Rose is somewhat opposite although she, too, works hard at her career.
Robin, Hazel’s husband, is the guy who has loved them both and perhaps still does. Joseph Ziegler, as Robin, handles this role with a mixture of resignation and bonhomie – perfect!
The Children opens in a cottage on the English coast and it very soon becomes apparent that there has been a disaster at the local nuclear power plant, where all three had been employed.
The big scare is cancer. Hazel lives as healthy a life as possible – she is a firm believer in yoga. Rose carries on, hoping for the best. The play centres around the tension between these two women, both very ably played by Nancy Palk and Brenda Robins.
The bombshell comes later, when Rose announces she is going back to work in the plant, to relieve some of the younger workers, who have wives and young families. She is collecting names and hopes to encourage other older or retired employees to join her. People at the latter end of their lives who would normally be much closer to death anyway.
Despite the somewhat grim-sounding subject matter, this is not a depressing play. It is serious, but there are moments of levity as well. Playwright Lucy Kirkwood has posed some questions about one generation’s responsibility to those that follow, but has not pointed any fingers nor shouted any rants. It is, I suppose, ironic that Rose, with her devil-may-care attitude, is the one of the trio of characters who wants to do something to fix the problem. Even though we see some nasty evidence of the damage already done, The Children ultimately leaves one with a sense of hope.
There is some question about who the children of the title are. Robin and Hazel have four, but we don’t know anything about them except for the eldest, who is 38. So the title probably refers to younger people in general.
Christina Poddubiuk’s set design is excellent, representing exactly what it is intended to be, suggesting impermanence and being on the cusp of something not defined. Michael Shamata has brought his usual deft touch and incredible sense of timing and staging to this thought-provoking piece of theatre. Bravo all round!
The Children runs at the Belfry until Oct. 13. For tickets call 250-388-6815 or visit belfry.bc.ca.