22 November 2016

The Red Barn at National Theatre was a tense treat


For several years I paid little attention to National Theatre seeing as rather expensive and somewhat mainstream and that is probably still true but I am now more willing to spend over £50 for a theatre ticket and am more appreciative of the mainstream, provided it is done well.

That lack of attention caused me to miss The Red Barn when it was first announced despite it being adapted by David Hare from a Georges Simenon story and staring Mark Strong which should have been enough to make me leap at it. As it was I only paid it attention when I was at NT to see something else and by then the run was sold out. And then the run was extended and I was quick off the mark for the additional tickets and helped myself to Lyttelton Circle A21 for £60.

The Red Barn started in a heavy snow storm and it was the best representation of a storm that I had ever seen on a stage. It was an excellent start and early indication of the high production values that I had come to expect from the NT.

In that snow storm two couples were battling to get to the safety and comfort of a house. Only three made it. One of the men lost contact with the other three and was left behind. Once in the house the others quickly realised that he was missing and the other man went out to look for him but returned after several hours having failed to do so. His body was found the next day.

The story then became more psychological than physical with the remaining man growing closer to the dead man's wife while flashbacks revealed more about the complicated emotional route that had led to the scene at the house. The plot weaved and jumped and so did my feelings towards each of the characters as flaws and strengths were shown.

A play that relies heavily on the nature of the characters also relies heavily on the actors and The Red Barn had a storming cast led by Mark Strong, Hope Davis and Elizabeth Debicki. Expect award nominations.

To say that I was engrossed in the drama was an understatement and I was desperate to learn what had gone on in the past (including some doubts over the death in the storm) and what would happen next. And what happened next was a big surprise.

I was enticed to see The Red Barn because of the big names involved and they all delivered to create a drama that was tense and also a treat.

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