Luchino Visconti’s screenplay is the springboard for a ceaselessly creative production, which follows a family of German industrialists – the corrupt and debauched Essenbeck clan. With echoes of Greek and Shakespearean tragedy, their deepening collusion with the nascent Nazi regime puts them on a perilous path to destruction.
Invited to direct the illustrious troupe of Comédie-Française for the first time, Van Hove and his long-time collaborator Jan Versweyveld populate the Barbican stage with a company of 30 actors and technicians. Archival footage and live recordings projected onto a screen form a counterpoint to the immense and involving action, the roving camera at times turned on the audience.
The Damned (Les Damnés) is performed in French with English surtitles.
With nudity, sexual assault and paedophilia, Ivo van Hove tests the boundaries of acceptability
The whole thing, for all its cleverness, feels heavy-handed and laboured
Ivo van Hove’s superb, deeply distressing staging of The Damned
The cast build up the atmosphere of doom and magnetic energy in tight collaboration
Many will find the play’s theme of the perils of democracy timely
Sound and vision reach a zenith of invention as the doomed patriarch's son Konstantin goes berserk with his SA buddies
A typically flashy staging of Luchino Visconti’s film by Ivo van Hove that lacks any real resonance
This is a riveting spectacle acted by a great ensemble
Just when it feels like it’s teetering on the brink of being operatically silly, it will take a visceral and terrifying lurch into an image of startling clarity and relevance
‘The Damned’ begins in twilight and ends in total darkness. It’s not a happy experience, but it is a brilliant piece of art