In a 1950s northern town, Dorothy cares for her growing rabble; her house brimming with voices and the sounds of laughter. These are her children, but none of them by birth. Over the years each of them has been taken in, the world’s waifs and strays, and together they have formed an unconventional, yet loving family. Peter is the eldest and over time he has become aware of the suspicion with which the community views his family. Dorothy continues to meet this stigma with love, but this has resulted in the two of them being at odds. Children do challenge their parents, though sometimes things are said in the heat of the moment that can’t ever be taken back. After an evening around the kitchen table with the children Dorothy retires to bed, but the following morning she does not wake. On discovering his mother, Peter struggles to settle upon the best way to tell his siblings, so decides to play for time by saying that she’s ill and is not to be disturbed. Confiding in May, one of his neighbours, the pair must work together if they are to keep the outside world at bay and the family together.
Inspired by the death of Jesus and the days that follow ‘The Children’ sees the disciples reframed as a family unit with the character of Peter at its centre. It’s a story of resilience, grief and the love that exists between brothers. “But I have prayed from you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” (LUKE 22: 32). In reimagining the story, I’ve drawn upon several sources within the Biblical text relating to Peter’s denial, his relationship with Jesus and his role as leader of the early church. In the 1950s setting the disciples remain at a very real risk of being forced apart; when its still commonplace for the state to intervene – often institutionalising people like Peter’s brother, Andrew, who has Downs Syndrome. It’s a story of selflessness and sacrifice in which Peter has to contend with both his guilt and his grief if he is to chart a path forward for his family. ‘And so I tell you, Peter: you are a rock, and on this rock foundation I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ (MATTHEW 16:18)
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