Provoking play, soon in theatre

'The Children' dares to ask, what kind of future are we leaving for the next generation? Photo: Contributed

Tom Parry

OFF The Leash Theatre Company is making a return to the Stratford Courthouse Theatre with an acclaimed and provoking adaptation.

The Children is a three-person play which follows an older retired couple in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster.

Off The Leash co-founder Jeannie Houghton is directing the adaptation, having first seen the work pre-pandemic in Melbourne.

Ms Houghton told the Gippsland Times it was the “environmental heart of the play” that grabbed her.

“I think what attracted me to it was the contemporary nature of it – the immediate connection to issues of climate change, power, sustainability, all of those issues we have,” Ms Houghton said.

“And the whole thing of integrity and ethics of older people – what are our responsibilities and what are we leaving behind?”

Written by British playwright Lucy Kirkwood, The Children premiered in 2016 to widespread praise; in 2019, it was named the third-best play of the 21st century by The Guardian.

Off The Leash was founded 13 years ago, and is currently based in the Warragul-Drouin region.

The company likes to perform “contemporary, challenging work”, according to Ms Houghton, including plays with social justice or issues-based content.

“We do work in West Gippsland Performing Arts Centre quite a lot; but we’re also attracted to the idea of minimal theatre and theatre that’s very intimate, with small numbers,” Ms Houghton said.

“It’s a part of a training for us, and learning about how far we can go with audiences.

“How few people do we need to actually feel that we’re producing worthwhile work that’s being received well? Is a really big audience necessarily better than a really small audience that’s perhaps more appreciative?

“It’s a really interesting exploration… I think it’s really lovely to be able to take something into a community, rather than expecting them all to jump up and come to us.”

Stratford’s Courthouse has hosted other productions by the company in years past, including an adaptation of David Williamson’s Face to Face.

Ms Houghton offered plenty of praise for the venue, and its audience: “you always get lovely attention from the people down there.”

The Children will be showing at the Stratford Courthouse this Friday, July 21 from 8pm.

For more information and to purchase tickets, head to www.stratfordcourthouse.com.au