National Theatre · 12 MAR - 27 APR

A co-production with Steppenwolf Theatre Company

“Set in a home for convicted paedophiles who have served their time, this certainly isn’t a light-hearted play. But critics have praised its sensitivity and dark humour as well as its harrowing performances. One thing everyone seems to agree on – it’s very good.”
Lyn Gardner avatar
7 March 2019  ·  Follow on Stagedoor
“More provocation from US playwright Bruce Norris whose ‘Clybourne Park’ and ‘The Low Road’ both created quite a stir. This one questions our capacity for forgiveness by focusing on four men, who have served sentences for sex crimes against minors, living in downstate Illinois. When a knock on the door comes, does it signify retribution or redemption?”


In downstate Illinois, four men convicted of sex crimes against minors share a group home where they live out their lives in the shadow of the offences they committed. A man shows up to confront his childhood abuser — but does he want closure or retribution?

This provocative new play zeroes in on the limits of our compassion and what happens when society deems anyone beyond forgiveness.

Content Advisory:

Please note: This production discusses and contains graphic descriptions of child abuse and rape, there is also reference to drug use and self-harm that some people may find distressing.

Critic reviews

To watch an abuser and his victim try and talk about what happened, and to ache for both, is an extraordinary feat, one with which Norris is immensely aided by the production’s exemplary cast

The Upcoming

Is at once intense as required yet also spellbindingly ordinary. And that's what makes it all the more extraordinary. It feels utterly real

London Theatre

A smart and necessary look at the way we punish paedophiles

The Telegraph

Haunting vision of sex abuse by a playwright with a gift for unsettling

Evening Standard

Downstate fulfils art's profound function of making you look and think hard about complex, difficult moral issues that society has a tendency of solving with superficial solutions. It is not a comfortable evening, but it is a vital one


Bruce Norris’ harrowing play about child abuse features some superb performances but also sometimes feels cynical

The Stage

The altogether rending final passage puts one in mind of Chekhov in its suggestion of sleep and rest as possibly the only final salvation

The Arts Desk

Arch provocateur Bruce Norris returns with a surprisingly sensitive drama about convicted sex offenders

Time Out

There are quite a few laughs here amid the pain and anger, but be warned: I was gripped by this play and I wouldn’t want to go again

The Times

The acting is excellent throughout, with K Todd Freeman impressing

The Independent

Date & time

Show ended
Tue 12 Mar - Sat 27 Apr, 2.30pm & 7.30pm


National Theatre
South Bank SE1 9PX London, UK · Get Directions
out of 5 stars
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