A Slow Unfolding “Fault Sequence”: Risk and Responsibility in Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children

University of Duisburg-Essen Germany
Hoydis, Julia
British playwright Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children (2016) tackles the imaginative challenge of depicting environmental crisis, in particular the risks of nuclear destruction and climate change. With questions of intra- and intergenerational justice being at the heart of the dramatic text, this article draws on conceptions and insights from cultural risk theory to argue that human risk behaviour and decision-making is the play’s main focus and determines characterisation as well as structure. Interrogating the tension between aesthetic form and content, it shows how The Children naturalizes the (post-)apocalyptic condition and strives for a balance of scales with regard to collective and personal crisis. Characteristic of the rapidly growing corpus of contemporary “cli-fi” drama, and in accordance with many of the strategies proclaimed by climate communication theory, the play stages the catastrophic implications of environmental destruction predominantly as collective risk management and in a predominantly realist manner, discarding formal experimentation as well as futurist setting. Yet this article argues that it remains ambiguous what kind of risk management is proposed and whether we should read it as a call for action or as an imaginative means of accepting finitude.


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