Matthew Dunster’s new play Children’s Children explores the increasingly dysfunctional relationships of two couples who met at arts college.
Wealthy and successful TV presenter Michael Stewart (Darrell D’Silva) lends his old friend, Gordon (Trevor Fox) a large sum of money when he falls on hard times. The loan marks the start of a downward spiral for Michael and Gordon and their respective wives Louisa (Beth Cordingly) and Sally (Sally Rogers).
The lives of the two couples spin out of control as criminal accusations emerge against Michael. All those around him get caught up in events which quickly start to consume their lives.
Two of the real stars of the show are Louisa and Michael’s daughter Effie (Emily Berrington) and her would-be film maker boyfriend Castro (John MacMillan) whose turbulent relationship mirrors some of the personal struggles faced by the two older couples.
Berrington, making her professional stage début in Children’s Children, puts in a stand out performance as the neurotic, self obsessed prima-donna Effie, who contrasts brilliantly with the aspiring left wing campaigner/documentary maker Castro.
Dunster’s dialogue is highly engaging with its mix of raw emotion and excellent comic timing, continually moving from one mood to another. However, one slight downfall in his writing is that he seems to be trying to cover too many bases at once.
Is he intending Children’s Children to be a meditation on the trappings of fame? An exploration of the nature of family conflicts? Or possibly a politically driven piece comparing the worries of indulged English families with the issues faced by ordinary people in developing countries at the hands of major corporations? This last theme is injected into the play through Castro and his interests as a film maker.
Despite the apparent confusion in Dunster’s intentions, the plot has enough strength and depth to make this a highly enjoyable play. The excellent casting and dramatic tension between the key characters outstrip any weaknesses in the script.
Dunster has created a well paced, engaging piece of theatre, which uses the space at the Almeida Theatre brilliantly. The cast manage to combine the thought provoking with sheer entertainment and drama to great effect. Catch Children’s Children during the rest of its residency at the Almeida.
Children’s Children is at the Almeida Theatre at 7.30pm, tickets £8-£32. Ends 30 June