Keith and Karen have lost their daughter, Sophie. Although we are never fully told what has happened, it is clear we are watching two parents ripped apart by crisis struggling to deal with life’s harshest card: the death of a child.
The Kids Are Alright should have been on a tour at the moment in theatres. Instead, it has become a one-take film, outside on a housing estate. Raw, disturbing, and visceral, this play sees a mother and father struggling to communicate, juggling elements of fantasy, and dealing with the gut-wrenching loss they are unable to face.
Fuel and Encounter’s work is always challenging, often difficult, sometimes unbearable. The Kids Are Alright is both crushingly sad and openly sick – an episode of described animal abuse may be triggering to some – as well as deftly juggling moments of black comedy.
The performers – Carl Harrison as Karen, Janer Etuk as Keith – are deeply physical and emotional. Their chemistry is palpable, their relationship feels forced until one moment which allows them to negotiate the memory of their daughter’s presence.
Filmed at night on the Evelyn Estate in Deptford, against a backdrop of postwar blocks and twickling municipal lights against a black sky, The Kids Are Alright is never easy viewing. However the writing of the play (by Lee Mattinson) is bravely explored by director/choreographer Jen Malarkey, tearing apart the dark corners of a family aching with hurt.
I found myself constantly drawn to Harrison’s Karen, at first a frustrating blank but slowly opening up to a performance fusing beauty, rage and regret. As he rakes through the leaves he leaves a lump in your throat. Etuk’s Keith is broader and angrier, but she brings the plight of oft-absent dad to the fore.
It isn’t for the faint-hearted. I found it very disturbing and devastating, and it is a type of theatre you may take time to settle into. I’d say it is well worth the effort.
The Kids Are Alright has been made available for free: book in and choose your performance until 2 December.
Image credit: Fuel Theatre.