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  • Miles Hedley


Personal tragedy, particularly one involving the death of a child, is all-consuming. So how do we cope with having to watch other youngsters lead lives full of hope when our own life is lost in despair?

The Kids Are Alright, the latest work of Encounter duo Jen Malarkey and Lee Mattinson which opened the new Rebels season at the Albany, sets out to answer the question with remarkable originality through dance, spoken word and the music of tormented diva Whitney Houston.

Backed by nine local primary school pupils, the pair run three storylines in parallel – a heartbreaking tale of a daughter’s death on a day out in London, a harrowing account of personal hell in Texas and, by contrast, a joyful celebration of childhood optimism, the private world of kids cleverly shown by giving them headphones that block out the cruelty of the public world of adults.

Malarkey and Mattinson then add a layer of surreality to the cocktail by inverting gender roles and peppering the script with witticisms Alan Bennett would be proud of.

The comic touches act as a devastating counterpoint to the grieving parent’s descent into despair which is played out in hideously accurate acts of bitterness, recrimination and anger.

This hour-long experimental show doesn’t always hit the mark but it does always keep you thinking - and feeling. It’s also beautifully performed by Malarkey, Mattinson and their cast of local children who between them manage to convey the extremes of contrasting emotions without becoming mired in sentimentality, sanctimony and/or pretentiousness. Catch it if you can.

Photo: The Albany


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