A very green Almeida theatre presents the European premiere of Neil LaBute’s In A Dark Dark House, a story of abuse and the potentially more destructive silence that follows.
Two brothers, Terry (David Morrissey) and Drew (Steven Mackintosh), are reunited under extraordinary circumstances. After wrapping his car around a lamppost with a packet of cocaine in his pocket, younger brother Drew is court-ordered to attend an expensive rehabilitation centre while awaiting trial. There, amidst the numerous counselling sessions and group therapy, a shocking revelation about his youth is unearthed, potentially explaining his perpetual immaturity and track record of repeatedly messing up – indulging in meaningless extramarital affairs and seeking illegal thrills.
Admitting for the first time that he was abused at the hands of an older mutual friend Todd, Drew asks the aloof and aggressive Terry to speak to his counsellors and confirm details about Todd in order that they accept his story without further analysis. Terry, however, in a complete shock to Drew, knows all too well about Todd’s warped abuse of power.
Their lives now thrown utterly out of kilter, an encounter with Todd’s smart-ass, fast talking daughter Jennifer (Kira Sternbach), changes both brothers’ lives even further.
A successful, wealthy lawyer, Drew’s words are peppered with the language of a younger generation, ‘awesome’ and ‘totally’ grating on his older and more conservative brother and cementing his Peter Pan persona complete with hoody and baggy jeans. In contrast, Terry is socially awkward and emotionally hardened, dressed in a check shirt and slacks in shades of brown. The preconceptions their appearances create are finally shattered in a conclusion which reveals exactly who the broken and who the ruthless really are.
With the stage turfed and tall trees and bushes completely disguising the walls, you could be forgiven for believing the Almeida to have been built around a wood, not the other way round. Lez Brotherston’s impressive set allows the action to be taken from a lush wood to a mini golf course, to the final garden party where an unimaginable truth is unwittingly revealed.
Drawing on his own childhood experiences of growing up in a dark, dark house where secrets and abuse were quietly present, Neil LaBute’s play is an uncomfortable and devastating insight into the trauma of reliving forgotten childhood memories.