Thursday, 9 January 2020

AMATEUR THEATRE REVIEW: The Children - The Garrick Theatre, Stockport.


Stockport Garrick is a bit of a hidden gem within the North West Theatre scene. It is very long established and deservedly has a reputation for producing high quality shows. The Children, staged in the bar area, with seats on 3 sides, is another one of those. This space is ideal for intimate plays such as this where only 3 actors take part. I first went to the Garrick a couple of years ago and last year, I was in one of their regular season's plays. The theatre also has a main, much larger auditorium.

The action takes place in the kitchen of Hazel and Robin's cottage which is away from the 'exclusion zone' following a nuclear disaster. They are both scientists and in the 60's although the actress playing Hazel (the excellent Kathryn Way) is clearly considerably younger than that in real life. Hazel is surprised when old friend Rose (Julia O'Toole), who is also a scientist, turns up unexpectedly. It is clear from the beginning that there is respect AND animosity between them and we find out later why – Rose had a fling with Robin many years previously. Hazel and Robin have 4 children who are only referred to, we never see them, but Rose never had kids of her own. The first, rather long, scene between the two women is well played out and is full of sharp dialogue and rather dark humour, which drew a lot of laughs from the almost capacity audience. Robin returns from his day on the farm, arriving rather oddly on an older child's scooter, which is the same colour blue as the kitchen table and chairs. The only other set is a wicker armchair and a breakfast bar at the back of the performance space.

It quickly becomes clear why Rose has come. She has suffered with cancer and is discovered to be wearing a wig when she and Hazel clash. Rose is recruiting a team of around 20 older scientists who will effectively kill themselves by the research they do back at the power station where the nuclear disaster happened, for the greater good and the children of the future, hence the name of the play.

Rose has 18 in the team and wants Hazel and Robin to complete the team. Robin is keen but Hazel is very unsure, preferring to stay where she is and to live a long and happy life, just like her grandmother did (who died when she was 103). For me, Hazel's character bordered on the psychotic and at one point, asks Rose whether she did a number 1 or 2 (I kid you not!) when she used their toilet. Rose lied as we find out later. Robin berates Hazel for asking such a personal question but Hazel persists anyway.

Robin (Robin Sheehan) comes across as a well meaning but somewhat weak man and was criticised back in the day when he slept with both women, the only girls on their college course. We also find out later that he lied to Hazel about the cows in their farm because they have all died as a result of the disaster and is spending his days away from the house, digging deep graves for the cattle.

Overall, although this genre of play is not normally my cup of tea, it was very well acted and there are some genuinely touching moments in amongst the sadness and despair of the situation they find themselves in. Thanks to the staff at Stockport Garrick for their hospitality and welcome and congratulations to the cast, crew and director; there were no technical hitches or issues and the play, staged as 1 act, lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Reviewer - David Swift
on - 8/1/20

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