The Red Barn

Reporter: Robin Johnson, first published Tue 18 Oct 2016 12:02

What’s it all about?

If you’ve ever stayed out a bit too late one evening, you’ll understand the struggle that can be getting home, but in 1969 Connecticut, at the heart of a harsh blizzard, the consequences can be positively fatal. Although two couples leave a party at the same time, only three people arrive home safely, and emotions, suspicions and sexual obsessions amongst the survivors soon begin to escalate.

Flicking between the events of the party, the blizzard itself, and the aftermath of the mysterious evening, Olivier Award-winning director Robert Icke and renowned playwright David Hare adapt detective writer Georges Simenon’s novel La Main to form a taut, thrilling and gruelling theatrical noir.

A psychological thriller with spectacular cinematic design – you get the sense that if plays could be performed in black and white, The Red Barn would be – this is a delicately balanced and finely-tuned coil towards a chill-inducing finale.   

Who’s in it?

Olivier Award-winner and screen star Mark Strong is tremendous as the unassuming and mild Donald, superbly capturing the gentle but disgruntled essence of a man who, having discovered himself during the course of the night’s events, begins to recognise to his horror that his life has been spent in the slow lane.

Tony and Emmy Award-nominated Hope Davis and The Night Manager’s Elizabeth Debicki are his two fellow cabin companions, with Hope cutting as Donald’s seemingly omniscient wife Ingrid, and Elizabeth the alluring subject of Donald’s frustrations, Mona. Meanwhile, Bunny Christie’s outstanding design is as much a central character as any actor upon the stage, such is its pivotal role in the presentation of action – the whole backstage and design team are deserving of sheer acclaim.

What should I look out for?

Incredibly stylish and unique design which finds a perfect home in the Lyttelton Theatre, with beautifully bass-heavy undertones, the slow ticking of a clock, dimly lit lighting and flickers of detail sharply highlighted by ever-dynamic sliding panels. And that’s not to mention the gorgeously authentic, large-scale sets, ranging from wood huts to high-rise apartments.

The cast’s movements being stalked by sliding panels, providing an almost James Bond-esque effect; if there’s a cooler way to enter or exit a London theatre stage, we’d like to see it.

What’s being said on Twitter?

In a nutshell?

Mark Strong revels in this striking, sleek and shadowy theatrical noir with stunning cinematic design.

The Red Barn plays at the National Theatre until 17 January 2017. To book tickets, please visit the venue's website.

More about

The Red Barn

National Theatre Lyttelton