THE RED BARN
By David Hare
Based on the novel Le Main by Georges Simenon.
Three stars ***
The Lyttelton, the National Theatre, Upper Ground, London SE1 9PX to 2 February. (Check dates with theatre.)
Runs 1 hr 50 mins. No interval.
TICKETS: 020 8038 7360.
Reviews: William Russell 28 October.
A low powered barnstorming thriller
Once upon a time the thriller plays were a staple part of the diet of West End theatre. Two or three would appear every season and some would run for quite a long time. One of them, The Mousetrap, refuses to give up. For reasons best known to David Hare he has decided to revive this now moribund genre of play with The Red Barn, a dramatised version of a Simenon novel.
Sir David being a National Theatre favourite that is where it has been staged with the always impressive Mark Strong in the lead as Donald Dodd, a boring businessman smothered by his wife and betrayed left, right and centre by everyone else.
It runs without an interval, wise because the play has no first act curtain to leave us anting to return after a break.
The National has also acquired the American actress Hope Davis and the Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki, the latter last seen romping in The Night Manager on television opposite Tom Hiddleston, to play the women in his life. They do so perfectly competently although it is hard to see why they bothered. The piece directed by Robert Icke fills the Lyttelton stage well enough, although the best thing in the evening is neither play nor cast, but the set by Bunny Christie. It uses a series of prisms, black screens which expand and contract to either show a complete room or focus down on a moment or physical detail to brilliant effect.
The stage staff patently work overtime as the endless changes of scene are done noiselessly. But when a crucial element in the plot is an ice storm there is lots of noise. But it is not enough. There is supposed to be a ferocious gale but nobody’s clothes so much as twitch and the living room candles – the power lines are down – do not so much as flicker when the door inevitably blows open. If one is going to ape the cinema, which is what the prisms do by creating close ups and long distance shots, then a little more verisimilitude is required.
As thrillers go it is pretty ordinary, but who gets killed and who does it does surprise. Slightly.
Dr Warren: Stuart Milligan.
Ingrid Dodd: Hope Davis.
Donald Dodd: Mark Strong.
Ray Sanders: Nigel Whitney.
Mona Sanders: Elizabeth Debicki.
Patricia Ashbridge: Anna Skellern.
Lieutenant Olsen: Oliver Alvin-Wilson.
Janet: Jade Youreli.
Mr Dodd: Michael Elwyn.
Director: Robert Icke.
Designer: Bunny Christie.
Lighting Designer: Tom Gibbons,
Video and Projection Designer: Tim Reid.