Interview with Francesca Annis, Ron Cook and Deborah Findlay of The Children
We chat to the stars of the Broadway transfer of the Royal Court Theatre production of The Children...
Thanks to the Manhattan Theatre Club, Oliver Award-winning playwright Lucy Kirkwood's oh-so-timely drama The Children is making quite the waves at Broadway's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. The production, which premiered at London's Royal Court Theatre in November 2016, features the original London cast - BAFTA Award winner Francesca Annis, Olivier Award nominee Ron Cook, and Olivier Award winner Deborah Findlay - and we caught up with the trio just after Opening Night to get the lowdown on living the New York dream, who "The Children" are exactly, and why President Trump needs to watch this unnerving tale about climate change and responsibility.
How are we all feeling about Opening Night?
Ron Cook: It went very well really. We’re glad to get it over with and we’re going to celebrate now.
I know you’ve all previously appeared on Broadway before. Two of you have performed in Hamlet on Broadway and one of you has even performed in two different productions of Hamlet on Broadway…
Francesca Annis: I did Hamlet twice on Broadway, yes!
…How does it feel to be back on Broadway? Is it any different or is it just another day at the office for you?
Francesca Annis: It’s never a day in the office. That’s the wonderful thing about working in the theatre. It’s always completely different every time you do it. It’s amazing to be back, that’s all I can say. I’m very happy to be here and I’m also very happy that tonight’s over. We can just move on now with our show.
They always say that actors can relax a little more with Opening Night out of the way…
Deborah Findlay: But it’s different here. It’s not like in London where you have all the press in on the actual Opening Night. That is frightening! Here, we know that all the press have actually been during the previews. So, tonight was more like a celebration really.
Ron Cook: You don’t know when the press is in. That’s great! We have a lot of previews and you don’t know when they’re coming.
Does the director ever come to you before a preview and say: “New York Times is in tonight, so look busy!”?
Francesca Annis: No, if they’re wise, they don’t! (Laughs)
What would you say are the other main differences between working in the West End and working on Broadway?
Deborah Findlay: Well, with this play in particular, the three of us are living right in the heart of Broadway. We’re practically living on Broadway. We can walk to work. That’s rather a unique experience, isn’t it? It’s great. We feel like we’re really getting the real New York experience.
Are you all housemates?
Deborah Findlay: No, we’re not housemates! (Laughs)
Ron Cook: We’re just in the same building.
I see - living in near proximity to each other. You’ve spent quite a lot of time together already what with the entire run at the Royal Court Theatre in London and now the Broadway run…
Francesca Annis: And amazingly we still get on and we still like each other very much! (Laughs)
Thank goodness for that! So, let’s talk about the play “The Children”. Are you folks “The Children” or are we talking about your offstage children or indeed offstage future generations?
Francesca Annis: Well, it’s about the children in all of us. It’s also a play about responsibility. It doesn’t matter what age you are. We tend to be complacent and offload our responsibilities, like children, onto other people to sort everything out. In actual fact, this play is about confronting that in your actual self and being a grown-up and taking responsibility.
Ron Cook: Lucy always writes on different levels. It can be all those things you mentioned. “The Children” could be our children but we are “The Children” too. It’s working on all of those levels.
And I loved the playful symbolism of you riding the tricycle, Ron. After seeing the play, I did take home the message of current generations having to take responsibility for their actions on behalf of future generations to come. What message would you like audiences to leave the theatre with?
Deborah Findlay: I would like them to leave with questions really. I suppose those questions are about responsibility. I mean, everybody is responsible for this planet. The one thing that is really crucial in Times Square, for example, is “wanting less”.
Francesca Annis: You go to Times Square and you can really see the culture of "more, more, more"! But we’ve really got to take stock and if we did, we maybe could save the planet and we could certainly be doing a huge amount for a lot of other people. But we don’t. I’m generalising obviously, but I think that the Homo sapien is intrinsically greedy. This is a problem.
Ron Cook: It’s an important play to be doing right now, when there are so many people denying climate change.
Since the play was commissioned, there’s been one very prominent person denying or devaluing climate change, of course. Do you think President Trump’s attitudes have added to the resonance of this play?
Francesca Annis: I’d love to think that he was going to come and see the play and change his mind. But don’t hold your breath! (Laughs)
And I’m sure you would be able to spot him out in the audience with that hairdo!
Francesca Annis: Oh, he’d take great pride in letting every single person know he was there!
Finally, is there a typical New York memory you’ll all be taking back to London with you?
Francesca Annis: I think for me, people are much more accessible here. They’re much more accessible than in London, in terms of being just on the street. Of course, like all big cities, the whole thing is mercurial, but by in large, Americans are very friendly. I like the idea, especially being an actor, that they feel completely free to talk to you about the play, about your life, and about anything actually. That’s really very nice and very different.
Ron Cook: Within the community here, I was amazed by how many best wishes were sent by all the other shows. They all signed things and faxed them or emailed them over. That was amazing and it doesn’t happen in London.
The Children Tickets are available now for performances through to February 4, 2018.