The Red Barn – take a pillow

The Red Barn is a chic, stylish piece of theatre which transforms the aircraft hangar that is the National’s Lyttleton auditorium into a letterbox cinema screen but what a pity all that effort went on a play that is pure, theatrical temazepam.

If slow, foreign films where nothing much happens are your thing, you are on to a winner here.

David Hare devotees are left wondering what happened to one of our top playwrights, the Mark Strong contingent may well think this is a waste of a fine actor’s talent but those who watched The Night Manager and wanted to see a bit more of Elizabeth Debicki may feel they have their money’s worth.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-14-50-42Debicki  joins the ranks of uber-famous actresses who have braved our inclement climate and appeared more or less au natural on the British stage, following on from Nicole “pure, theatrical viagra” Kidman in the Blue Room and Jerry Hall in The Graduate. Is anyone shocked or titillated by this stuff?

Still there is a lot of comfort to be taken from both the set and the effects, from the country house and space age New York apartment, to the snowstorm and the hint of cigarette smoke that wafted at least as far as row J. The hanging bubble chairs with white leather were a real highlight, I just can’t quite work out where I can put any.

It is hard to gauge the mood of the tiresomely well-behaved National audience when the theatre is full but my guess is I was not the only calculating whether I was too British to climb over people to escape (apparently I am) and how  1 hour  50 minutes with no interval could possibly feel so long.


This was billed as a thriller but if that is what you are seeking take yourself and your money off to The Mousetrap or The Woman in Black where you will be entertained, puzzled and certainly, in the case of the latter, genuinely scared.

I am seeing Amadeus on Tuesday, please National Theatre don’t mess this one up!


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