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The Children

From 48 critic and 358 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Intelligent, Slow

About the show

Two retired nuclear scientists in an isolated cottage by the sea as the world around them crumbles.  Manhattan Theatre Club brings this new drama from London to Broadway with its original cast. More…

In a remote cottage on the lonely British coast, a couple of retired nuclear engineers are living a very quiet life, enjoying their yogurt and yoga. But outside, the world is in utter chaos following a devastating series of events. When an old friend turns up at their door, they’re shocked to discover the real reason for her visit.

This Week in New York Blog

“A breath of fresh air in this winter season...This fiercely taut drama...Brilliantly written by Olivier Award winner Kirkwood, who has created three complex characters who are genuine and unpredictable...Despite its title, ‘The Children’ is the most adult show in NYC right now, a marvelously resonant, intelligent, and engaging play that continually defies expectations as the plot twists and turns while something threatening hangs just past the horizon.” Full Review

The Huffington Post

"A very good play with very good performances and a very good production design and very good direction, all working together to give you that delicious feeling of being in very good hands...The three actors couldn’t be in more sync if they were a string quartet that had spent a lifetime perfecting their focus and interplay...How easy all involved make a fresh, compelling drama like this seem." Full Review

Stage Left

“A relevant and trenchant play that uses the dystopian reality of nuclear meltdown as an impetus for exploring big questions on an intimate scale...Kirkwood insightfully devises rich and fascinating characters whose diverging worldviews reflect the paradoxes that come with personal responsibility, maturity, and eventual death...The imagery of the play is stark and memorable...An acclaimed transfer from London, the performances are pitch-perfect.” Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"Astonishing new play...I dare not reveal the outcome and thereby spoil your discoveries that this fine, brave play offers. The trio of virtuoso English actors shines...Under James MacDonald’s expert direction, this ordinary cottage kitchen is the scene of revelation after shocking revelation, escalating to a stunning denouement. Rarely do we encounter a playwright of conscience like Lucy Kirkwood, who courageously tackles the big questions that our planet faces." Full Review


“What is truly marvelous is the gap between the comfortable dialogue between the twosome, and then the threesome, and the emotions snaking around and under them...The play goes in unexpected places, both charming and disturbing the audience, held breathless by what we don’t know...You will find yourself pondering the questions 'The Children' asks for a long time to come....Macdonald deftly maneuvers his brilliant cast around the tilted world they inhabit." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

“Kirkwood's tremendous new play is the kind of work we need to be making, and supporting, right now...Macdonald is a master at executing real, darkly comic characters in stark scenarios. His deft hand brings to the stage a nuanced, streamlined performance with just a hint at some tricks. But it’s Kirkwood’s script that deserves the most attention...Filled with a millennial insight into the baby boomers in a way that never feels patronizing, but boldly poetic and disarmingly comic." Full Review

The New York Times

“Even though it is completely successful as an eco-thriller, bristling with chills and suspense, denuclearization is not its subject…Its true concerns…become so lofty and yet at the same time so essential that the play is as disturbing to replay in your imagination as it is to see in the first place...The naturalness of Mr. Macdonald’s stage movement in such a confined space is central to the containment of energy that makes the play thrilling.” Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"These three are a true ensemble and it is a marvel that even in the silences, much is said. Macdonald's direction allows the surprises and the twists and turns to unfold naturally. He brings out the best in his trio of superb actors. Buethers’s set and costume design, together with Mumfords lighting and projection design and Pappenheim’s sound design, keep us at the edge of the world. All these elements keep us just off kilter enough to feel that this is now, relevant, and important." Full Review


"Its sterling cast intact, Kirkwood’s harrowing play exposes us to the drab lives and dark pasts of three nuclear physicists...Director James Macdonald does a masterful job of deepening and darkening the sense of menace that haunts this strange play...So much depends on the actors to hold off our impatience. Luckily, these mesmerizing performers could keep us enthralled through any of the cataclysmic events alluded to in the play." Full Review

Broadway News

“A simmering, ultimately searing drama by Kirkwood...Superb three-member cast...A quiet but exquisitely well-observed slice of life, set in an all-too-easily foreseeable future, when life itself has become, well, more thinly sliced...MacDonald calibrates the play’s subdued but unmistakable nuggets of conflict expertly...’The Children’ does dawdle a bit here and there...But the preciseness of the play’s naturalism is integral to its quiet impact, as well as its larger meanings.” Full Review


"An extraordinary play now making its U.S premiere under the subtle and super-steady hand of director James Macdonald...With layers that unfold like an onion and a construction as solid as an Erector set, Kirkwood’s 105-minute piece may initially seem like a pungent if well-made domestic drama, a la Albee or Pinter, but the author proves to have much more than marriage on her mind...'The Children' reveals itself as a deeply philosophical work." Full Review

The Wrap

“A very scary, cautionary drama…Kirkwood’s play, to its credit often resembles a vintage episode of ‘The Twilight Zone.’ An ominous tension pervades the production…The language of Kirkwood’s characters bristles with intelligence…Macdonald directs an extraordinary trio of actors. With fine precision, he buffets Findlay’s constantly fraught portrayal of a woman clinging to life through her illusions with the grounded resignation at the heart of Annis and Cook’s performances." Full Review

Theater Life

“Connects to its audience on a level deeper than stagecraft...Kirkwood structures her compassionate, heart-wrenching treatise on social responsibility with such craft, you become wrapped up in the interrelations of this trio without even realizing they are symbols of modern society, yet struggling to redeem itself...Macdonald’s direction keeps the action on a credible level with a welcome lack of showy theatricalism. This subtlety is echoed in the acting.” Full Review

Woman Around Town

"Lucy Kirkland has penned theater for our time...Kirkwood’s play rivets attention and raises questions sure to elicit lively discussion. Except for a thoroughly unnecessary passage about the vicissitudes of the cottage toilet, the piece is beautifully crafted...Acting is terrific...Macdonald has kept this multilayered play accessible and human, relegating philosophical issues to after the curtain falls." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"It’s a quietly disturbing beginning as directed by James MacDonald, and we are instantly engaged and desperate for an explanation for this troubled air. And it will come, but we will have to just sit back and wait it out...What is beautifully done in this intriguing and powerful play, is the teasing out of information about the world they live in and the circumstances they find themselves...It’s a slow cooking machine here, but wildly satisfying in the end." Full Review


“In British playwiright Kirkwood’s deceptively subtle drama ‘The Children’, three characters in their sixties consider their responsibility to the younger ones living now...Terrific three-member cast...With another author, the 100-minute play might have been shaved down to set up an adventure story of sensational heroism, but the great impact of Kirkwood's drama comes from its naturalism and simple presentation of a moral issue.” Full Review

Time Out New York

“Unsettling and provocative...Kirkwood keeps angles of the romantic triangle secondary to a larger concern: the mess that baby boomers have made of the world and what they can do to clean it up...Behind the subtleties of its direction and acting, 'The Children’s' central question is blunt: What does it mean to be responsible?" Full Review


“The way Kirdwood's tackled climate change is cause to rejoice. She's not only taken on that more problematic than ever issue but managed to weave it into a potent mix of polemic and fact inspired fiction...Remarkably fresh, absorbing, disturbing, and entertaining...The actors and the script's detours into humor and bonding...keep us engaged in this dark story's at times overly slow, and perhaps ten minutes too long, creep towards its inevitably disturbing ending.” Full Review

AM New York

“A grim post-apocalyptic drama...The cultural issues and character conflicts raised in Kirkwood’s sobering and absorbing new work hark back to the very notion of giving — not gifts, but oneself — for the sake of community and future generations...The visually stylized, well-acted production is directed by Macdonald...It begins slowly and mysteriously...Black humor occasionally pops up...A social drama that is disturbing and thought-provoking.” Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

“Kirkwood's all too believable play about the aftermath of a nuclear accident, is much more than a cautionary dystopian tale...The intact transfer is a fortuitous one, resulting in a polished ensemble piece that captures a sense of the characters' history...Kirkwood does a wonderful job of revealing the details of the accident by weaving bits of information into conversations that are otherwise laced with domestic chatter...and the sort of gallows humor that is intended to keep despair at bay." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"The success of 'The Children' is primarily the result of Kirkwood's effective and judicious use of tropes, particularly the extended metaphor of the nuclear 'disaster' that has displaced Hazel and her husband Robin from their dairy farm...Under Macdonald's purposive and gentle direction, 'The Children' raises significant enduring questions left for the audience to grapple with." Full Review

Wolf Entertainment Guide

“Kirkwood’s ambitious play has a broad scope...The strength of the imaginative play lies in the interactions of the characters...We are challenged to decide what to make of the characters, their relationship, events of the past and forebodings for the future. Macdonald accents the play’s intensity and step-by-step revelations. Massive projections at the end drive home the central concept. Mostly, it is the expertise of the three cast members that keeps us glued.” Full Review


“Despite a brilliant display of achingly detailed acting - reason enough for connoisseurs of acting to rush to this production directed by James Macdonald - its uneasy blend of a frightening nuclear apocalypse and an ugly romantic triangle might be an obstacle for some. ‘The Children’ is a quiet, whispered scream of a drama that takes viewers by surprise even as the characters bleed and brood.” Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

“A play about responsibility and guilt, reparation and redemption. It’s also a British play, so these heavy matters are handled lightly, wryly, approached from the side until circumstances absolutely demand a head-on confrontation...Kirkwood plays a clever and ultimately heartbreaking game with the complex relationships among these three old friends...There’s the sense of three expert players staying in close harmony, at first reserved, eventually released.” Full Review

Daily Beast

"Full of neat, jolting visual surprises…The audience delights in Kirkwood’s delight for language…You may well be listening to a delightful radio play…The true test of sitting and watching a play with no intermission for close to two hours is that you want to follow Hazel, Rose, and Robin to where they are going, to listen to them more. But Kirkwood has imagined the right end for them, right before a far more profound end presents itself.” Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Relevant

See it if You want to see a unique and powerful play with a lot to say about personal responsibility and aging.

Don't see it if You only like lighthearted shows. Do not like plays.

Absorbing, Great acting, Intense, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if you want a solidly written drama that makes you think about the implications of wanting more out of life. The acting is also top notch.

Don't see it if you have to see cheesy musicals with pop songs or must have young actors in order to enjoy something.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Profound, Intense

See it if An amazing production. Incredible acting and direction – master class in both. And the play itself, haunting can’t stop thinking about it.

Don't see it if You Don’t like subtlety, slow build, great acting

Great acting, Great writing, Profound, Relevant, Masterful

See it if you like the type of play that reveals itself to you gradually and makes you think.

Don't see it if you don't like British plays.

Also As imperious and wild-haired as Margaret Atwood, Francesca Annis is al... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Funny, Riveting, Profound, Intense

See it if You like theatre where you have to pay attention! A thinker play. Very subtle. Time flies by.

Don't see it if If you need spectacle or some big thing to happen.

Absorbing, Clever, Enchanting, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you're looking for brilliant new theatre that is as wild and mysterious as it is entertaining.

Don't see it if you're looking for pure fun, comedy, or theatrics. This is a brilliant play but it's very much a drama with laughs.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Terrifying

See it if You’re looking for a truly, existentially chilling thriller from the UK

Don't see it if Single-set, three-character dramas don’t appeal to you

A peek into the future, and a glimpse into our souls.

See it if you think that three characters with conflicting agendas, hiding secrets from the audience and each other, is a recipe for suspense.

Don't see it if "domestic dramas"--even this one, with its 21st century, end-of-the-world vibe--lack the kind of theatricality and spectacle you prefer.

Also The entire action of the play takes place in a kitchen--a small one wi... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Absorbing, Solemn, Funny, Fresh

See it if you want to see an incredible showcase of performer's talent, grand writing, intriguing outset, and great staging.

Don't see it if Three people in a room talking is not enough stimulation for you -- or you have zero interest in saving the children.

Intense, Masterful, Must see, Great acting, Thought-provoking

See it if you want an acting lesson along with some VERY thought-provoking themes that will leave you thinking long after the show is over.

Don't see it if you're not patient and ready for a bit of a slow-burn of a show. It takes a little while to unfold, but it's worth it.

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great staging, Intelligent

See it if you love edgy, thought-provoking dramas with some humor. This show was perfectly written, with many twists and turns, just like life.

Don't see it if you only go to revivals or comedies.

Absorbing, Edgy, Great acting, Intelligent, Profound

See it if You care about humanity and our worth as a species

Don't see it if You don't want to think about important issues

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy, Intelligent, Relevant

See it if you like to think, like straight plays, enjoy acting that is real and straight forwrad.

Don't see it if you want jazz hands and show stopping numbers

Thought-provoking, Resonant, Intelligent, Ambitious, Relevant

See it if you like plays about real moral questions & personal responsibility. You want to see seniors represented onstage as 3-dimensional people.

Don't see it if you want a play with sexy young people to look at or lots of flashy action / melodrama. You don't like moral dilemmas or have no patience.

Also I loved it, but can see why some rated this low, possibly for these re... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Outstanding direction, Relevant

See it if You want to observe how corruption, nuclear contamination, and interpersonal relationship issues can leave you feeling uplifted.

Don't see it if You need a complete escape from world issues.

Great acting, Riveting, Thought-provoking, Great writing

See it if you want to see top-notch acting and don't mind leaving the theatre to think and talk about the show days later.

Don't see it if you want big song and dance numbers or lighter fare.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great writing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking

See it if you like a story that keeps you guessing.

Don't see it if you prefer a lot of activity in a play.

Original, Thought-provoking, Great writing, Great acting, Redemptive

See it if you’ll see a quietly atypical piece on an under-portrayed subject handled with that immaculate English restraint. Must be a good listener.

Don't see it if you’re content to believe altruism’s a sham; need gut punches to feel stimulated & blatant displays of emotion to track character progress.

Also I didn’t find this show slow—the opening small talk is immediately rev... Read more Read less

Thought-provoking, Excellent, builds slowly

See it if you want to see good acting and have much to think about at the end

Don't see it if you want something light

Also it builds slowly as the layers of the onion are peeled off to reveal t... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Edgy, Great writing, Intense

See it if a very deep and well written play that always seems to be taking you someplace else than it really is.

Don't see it if it's ultimately a very dark play with a very sad ending

Absorbing, Edgy, Ambitious, Great acting, Clever

See it if You relate to the horror and consequences of real environmental disasters through the lens of good acting, suspense and direction.

Don't see it if You are disinterested in our environmental problems of today.

Absorbing, Intelligent, Masterful, Profound, Relevant

See it if You are interested in a simple show with a powerful story.

Don't see it if You are not interested in the aftermath of a nuclear event.

Great staging, Relevant, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if you like to think about a play after the play is over. Fabulous directing by James Maconald. Ron Cook is excellent as the husband.

Don't see it if you want the best acting you have ever seen. I thought the ladies were not that convincing but the male actor, Ron Cook, was excellent.

Also This is a play that is better after it is over because as you begin to... Read more Read less

Great acting, Profound, Resonant, Thought-provoking

See it if you love to watch highly trained actors work on an incredible script trying to bring very important issues to the stage

Don't see it if you have ADHD

Exquisite, Great acting, Absorbing, Thought-provoking, Relevant

See it if you're willing to put some thought into what you're watching. I loved it Covered my ears after not to heat 2 old biddies who didn't get it.

Don't see it if can't appreciate excellent performers in a play that has much to say yet is sprinkled with laught.

Cast & Creatives (9)