Drip Action theatre company at the Arundel Festival

Pennie Billinghurst
Pennie Billinghurst

For the Arundel Festival, Dawn Smithers is directing a play which she really can’t say too much about.

She can confirm that it’s The Children by Lucy Kirkwood and that it runs at The Victoria Institute from August 20-25 as Drip Action theatre company’s evening production, with tickets available from The Book Ferret in Arundel.

But beyond that, she’s worried about giving too much away: “And that would be awful… because it really is a marvellous play, the most powerful, wonderful play. But it really is the most difficult play to talk about. I can’t tell you what the play is about.”

She’s happy to set the scene, though. Robin and Hazel are married. They met many years ago at the power station where they both worked. In retirement, they are now farmers... of sorts. They live together in a dilapidated cottage. They rub along pretty well, mostly.

Rose is a surprise visitor out of the blue. She worked at the power station too. Rose and Robin have history. All three are friends… kind of. Rose is on a mission. She wants something, but what is it? It’s a big ask. It’s a very big ask. So what lengths would you go to for The Children?

“I read a lot of plays over the years, and I found this one early spring this year, and I was just really, really impressed,” Dawn says. “It is beautifully written. The writer is only 34 years old, but she has had a lot of success, and I have read that she is the most rewarding dramatist of her generation.

“She gets right into the life that she is depicting.

“The play is about two ageing scientists living on the coast, and an old friend arrives with a frightening request.

“I absolutely can’t tell you what the request is! The play is set in a very, very near future. There is no real time, and the language is the same as now, but it is set a little bit beyond where we are now. The two scientists are a married couple and this friend turns up who has had an affair with the husband. I am so lucky with the cast. As director I feel very privileged to be working with them.”

Featuring in the three-hander are Dawn’s husband Stuart, Pennie Billinghurst and Gill Medway.

“They are wonderful to work with. If I say I want something, they do it. They know what I mean, and they just get it. Gill was rehearsing a big speech the other day, and I was just thinking ‘Oh brilliant!’ She had every nuance, every light and shade. Pennie is a wonderful actor. She has so much experience. And Stuart is brilliant. Stuart can just become anyone he needs to be. He is great at absorbing a character. He can become anyone. And all three of them get on well and know each other and it makes a big difference. But really it is an amazing play. It runs to nearly two hours, an hour and 45 minutes with no interval. There is no place for an interval.”

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