2022-23 Season
April 6 - 23, 2023

The Children

A hit in London and on Broadway

By Lucy Kirkwood

Directed by Jenny Sullivan

About The Children

Set at a remote cottage on the coast of Britain after a tsunami wreaks havoc on a nuclear reactor, a married couple’s lives are further disrupted by the mysterious appearance of a long-lost colleague, who confronts them with a stunning moral dilemma: what does the older generation owe to those who are young? A hit in London and on Broadway. Approximate Running Time: 1 hour 45 minutes with no intermission.


by The English Theatre Frankfurt

Kirkwood had wanted to write a play about climate change for a few years, but wasn’t sure how to approach the subject. The facts about the impact human activities have had and continue to have on the planet are well-known. “What is interesting to me is this: if we know the facts, why are we failing so catastrophically to change our behaviors?” Kirkwood asks. “I think it’s because those changes are enormous and frightening and demand that we give up things we have all come to feel we are entitled to.” 

Kirkwood took inspiration from the events that led to the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant—a tsunami flooded the plant, breached the sea wall, and triggered the meltdown of three of its six core reactors—as well as the story of the retired work-force that went in to clean up the plant. From there she fashioned a profoundly predictable disaster (“We built a nuclear reactor next to the sea then put the emergency generators in the basement!” says one character), as a way to investigate the all-too-human impulse to downplay the potential larger impact of their choices. 

To set up this conflict between what you want (“life or sex or children or food or electricity,” as Kirkwood characterizes it) and what you actually need, Kirkwood turns to a sturdy and time-honored structure: the romantic triangle. The nature of Rose’s relationship with Robin 40 years ago and over the intervening decades is eventually teased out, with the play’s romantic triangle operating as both plot engine and metaphor for other unconsidered consequences of desire—particularly in an economic system that depends on creating appetites instead of satisfying them. “Capitalism has instilled a set of desires in us that are very difficult to de-program,” Kirkwood says. “Capitalism depends on growth. Our entire economic system depends on us wanting more and more, on boundless desire—and if we continue to pursue those desires they will destroy us.” In a world of Geiger counters and exclusion zones, this destruction is literal. 

The Children has one location, three characters, and plays out in real time over the 90-minute duration of the play. It was a theatrical impulse born of a political one, the desire to slow people’s thinking down, and bring them into real reckoning with the true implications of their decisions. “That’s what drama is,” says Kirkwood, “looking at human beings under pressure trying to do things that they find difficult.” 

In the end, these characters’ difficulties come down to agency in a culture of learned powerlessness, a dynamic that Kirkwood gestures to in the title of her play. The play’s eponymous children may refer to the two daughters and two sons of Hazel and Robin or to an abstract sense of the rising generation and the poisoned legacy their parents leave them. To Kirkwood, it refers at least in part to the sexagenarians of her cast: “The state of a child is to feel you can’t affect your world, and the whole play is a conversation about how we can affect our world.” To the charge that this is a play about a younger generation condemning its elders, Kirkwood confesses, “I believe that if I had been 20 in 1970 I would have made similar choices to the characters in the play.” Who among us would not choose our comfort? Who among us can distinguish between our necessities and luxuries: 24/7 electricity, year-round air conditioning, any fruit in any season, and all the meat we’re interested in eating? But, Kirkwood asks, what will happen if we don’t bring our appetites into scale? 

The Children Program



* Member of Actors’ Equity Association

Events & Talks

  • Opening Night

    April 8, 2023 at 8:00 p.m.

    Immediately following the performance, opening night attendees are treated to a festive post-show wine and hors d’oeuvre reception with the artists.

  • Pre-Show Talk

    April 12 and 19 at 6:45 p.m.

    Join ETC Dramaturg, Anna Jensen for a free, lively, and informative half-hour talk in The New Vic courtyard before each Wednesday performance.

  • Martini Night

    April 14, 2023 at 7:15 p.m.

    Mingle with friends and enjoy a complimentary martini with your ticket purchase. Held in The New Vic courtyard 45-minutes prior to curtain on the second Friday of the run.

  • Thursday Talkback

    April 20, 2023

    Immediately following the final Thursday evening performance, meet members of the cast and participate in an informal 20-30 minute Q&A about the show.

The Children Showtimes

The Children Streaming

ETC will partner with The League of Live Stream Theater to live stream the final three performances of The Children by Lucy Kirkwood. The live stream performances will be available to a worldwide audience on Friday April 21 at 8PM; Saturday April 22 at 8PM and Sunday April 23 at 2PM (all times pacific time). Tickets to the live stream performances will be $49 and are available at stream.lolst.org/children. To accommodate viewers around the world there will be a 24-hour viewing window for each virtual curtain time, more information is available at stream.lolst.org/children.

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