A Very Expensive Poison

A Very Expensive Poison

WORLD PREMIERE. By Lucy Prebble, based on the Book by Luke Harding.

“Lucy Prebble is one of the UK’s best playwrights. She made her mark on the industry with a string of intelligent plays exploring a variety of contemporary issues. The Sugar Syndrome poked around the dark corners of the web; following the Great Recession, Enron satirised the fraud at the heart of American business; and The Effect examined the connections between neuroscience, love and depression. Now, with the Russian government’s 2018 attempted murder of Sergei Skripal still fresh in people’s memories, Prebble is revisiting the story of Alexander Litvinenko. The production takes a few creative risks, with critics responding with a mix of 3, 4 and 5 star reviews.”
Lyn Gardner avatar
11 July 2019  ·  Follow on Stagedoor
“A new play by Lucy Prebble (who wrote Enron, The Effect and The Sugar Syndrome) is always something to look forward to. In the wake of the Salisbury Novichok poisonings, this account of a previous poisoning is based on Luke Harding’s book about the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, who in November 2006 was poisoned by the radioactive substance Polonium in London after making enemies in Russia at the highest level. Harding’s thoroughly researched book has been compared to a real-life John LeCarre thriller and Prebble should make it gripping in a production that shines a spotlight on the shadowy world of international espionage.”


A modern-day assassination in the heart of London. In the strange coming together of high-stakes global politics and radioactive villainy, a man pays with his life.

At this time of unnerving global crises and rumblings of a new Cold War, A Very Expensive Poison sends us careering through the shadowy world of international espionage from the townhouses of Fitzrovia to the brothels of Soho.

With dazzling inventiveness, Lucy Prebble (The Effect, ENRON) reimagines Luke Harding’s jaw-dropping exposé of the events behind the tragic death of Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Critic reviews

The twisted tale of the Russian dissident’s death by radioactive poisoning employs songs, puppets and even Putin as an unreliable narrator

The Guardian

Flair, power, humour and emotional punch


Toxic drama gets under the skin

The Times

Masterfully messy meta-thriller about the Litvinenko poisoning

The Stage

Inventive but flawed exploration of the Litvinenko murder

Evening Standard

Bold evocation of a post-truth world

The Arts Desk

Lucy Prebble’s brave, mad, brilliant attempt to process the 2006 assassination of Alexander Litvinenko

Time Out

What’s thrilling is the way that Prebble is constantly testing just how a story can be told even as it points up the fact that stories are spun this way and that to suit the interests of those who want to control the story

Lyn Gardner for Stagedoor

While Lucy Prebble's phenomenal new work - a combination of horror, espionage thriller, love story and satire, with dazzlingly theatrical framing - doesn't centre around the B world, it is, unquestionably, the play for the present moment

Broadway World

Story of Litvinenko's murder leaves an odd taste in the mouth

The Telegraph

A brilliantly bold and ferociously intelligent drama about our slippery times

Financial Times

Date & time

Show ended
Tue 20 Aug - Sat 5 Oct, 2.30pm & 7.30pm


The Cut SE1 8NB London, UK · Get Directions
out of 5 stars
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