There’s been an accident. Something terrible the press are calling “The Natural History museum incident”. It’s unclear what exactly has happened, except that it’s left a couple without their 10-year-old daughter, Sophie.
The Kids Are Alright is a new work by Jen Malarkey and Lee Mattinson, creators of fringe theatre cult hit I Heart Catherine Pistachio. This one, a co-production between Fuel and Malarkey and Mattinson’s company Encounter, involves a team of children who have developed a “Children’s Manifesto for Change” in workshops.
During the performance, the kids hear their own manifesto and an immersive story through headphones, which causes them to move around the same square space occupied by the main performers, Carl Harrison and Anna Martine Freeman.
Of course, without the background info on the production notes the audience would have no idea what the headphoned children are hearing and responding to. This doesn’t really matter. In fact, it’s almost more interesting not to know and just to sense their strange, semi-haunting presence.
Harrison and Freeman, as the bereaved couple (Harrison playing the wife, Freeman the husband), worm their way through petty rows, attempts at reconciliation, bitty memories of their daughter, wish-fulfilment fantasies about her return and quite a lot of Whitney Houston.
It’s ridiculous, absurd, infuriating and, at points, very, very sad. Which makes it an almost perfect portrayal of an attempt to navigate loss in the aftermath of an utterly unfathomable event. A jumbled-up clown dance through a blank space: that’s grief all right.