In a Dark Dark House
European Premiere

In a Dark Dark House

By Neil LaBute
Ticket prices: £6 - £29.5
Thu 20 Nov 2008 - Sat 17 Jan 2009

"We just don’t click as people. Shame that we had to end up related"

Brothers Terry and Drew are worlds apart. The extraordinary circumstances of their reunion force them to relive the carefully forgotten memories of their childhood.

An encounter with a pretty girl putting holes on her father’s miniature golf course sends out shockwaves that mean their lives will never be the same again.

This explosive new drama by the controversial Neil LaBute explores the depths of family loyalty with powerful and moving results.

Previously the Almeida Theatre has presented premieres of LaBute's The Distance from Here, Bash, The Shape of Things and The Mercy Seat. LaBute's films include In the Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty, Possession and Wicker Man. 


Tue 6 January 2009

Stay in the auditorium after the performance to have your questions answered by members of the In a Dark Dark House company.  Free to same day ticket holders.

Evening performances 7.30pm

Saturday matinees 3pm

Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes, with no interval.

Please arrive in good time as latecomers may only be admitted after 40 minutes. 

Please note: this play deals with the sensitive issue of abuse.  If you would like more specific information about the content please email us at

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In a Dark Dark House - The Cast
Steven Mackintosh


Steven Mackintosh - Drew

Steven Mackintosh’s recent theatre credits include My Zinc Bed for the Royal Court, The Woman in Black for the Fortune Theatre and Cops for Greenwich Theatre. His film work includes The Jacket, Underworld: Evolution, The Escapist, Tulse Luper Suitcases, The Mother, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, The Land Girls, Prick Up Your Ears and the forthcoming Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, The Daisy Chain and Good. His television credits include The Amazing Mrs Pritchard in which he played opposite Jane Horrocks, The Other Boleyn Girl, Our Mutual Friend, Care, The Buddha of Suburbia and Sweet Revenge.

David Morrissey

David Morrissey - Terry

David Morrissey’s theatre credits include Three Days of Rain for the Donmar Warehouse, Much Ado About Nothing at the Queen’s Theatre as well as King John, Richard III and Edward IV all for the RSC and El Cid and Twelfth Night for Cheek by Jowl.  His extensive television credits include Peter Morgan’s The Deal in which he played Gordon Brown. Sense and Sensibility, State of Play, Cape Wrath, Ripley’s Gold, Blackpool, Out of Control, Linda Green, Our Mutual Friend, and Gordon Brown in Peter Morgan’s The Deal. His film credits include The Waterhouse, The Other Boleyn Girl, Basic Instinct 2, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, Hilary and Jackie, The One That Got Away and Being Human. 

Kira Sternbach

Kira Sternbach - Jennifer

Kira Sternbach’s New York theatre credits include How I Learned to Drive, American Girls, Raised by Lesbians, Gerald’s Method, and Neil LaBute’s original workshop production of In a Dark Dark House. Other theatre credits include Pains of Youth for California Rep Theatre, and One Night on East Coast tour. Her film and television credits include The Prisoner, My Normal, and Three Windows.

Creative Team

Neil LaBute - Writer

Neil LaBute’s plays include Filthy Talk for Troubled Times, bash: latter-day plays, The Shape of Things, The Distance From Here, The Mercy Seat (performed at the Almeida in 2003), Autobahn, Fat Pig, This Is How It Goes, Some Girl(s), and Reasons To Be Pretty, currently on Broadway. His films include In The Company of Men, Your Friends and Neighbors, Nurse Betty, Possession, The Wicker Man, and the forthcoming Lakeview Terrace. He has also written fictional pieces for several American publications, and a collection of short stories. 

Michael Attenborough - Director

As Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre Company Michael Attenborough has previously directed Neil LaBute’s The Mercy Seat as well as Five Gold Rings, Brighton Rock,The Late Henry Moss, Enemies, Frank McGuinness’ There Came A Gypsy Riding, Theodore Ward’s Big White Fog, Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing! and most recently his critically acclaimed production of Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming.  On leaving the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he was Principal Associate Director, he was invited to become an Honorary Associate Artist.  In 2005 Michael Attenborough directed the world premiere of David Edgar’s Playing with Fire in the Olivier at the National Theatre.

Lez Brotherston - Design

Lez Brotherston has previously designed for Almeida productions Dying For It, The Lightning Play and Brighton Rock. Other recent theatre work includes Dickens Unplugged and In Celebration (West End), Much Ado About Nothing for the RSC, The Dark and Little Foxes for the Donmar Warehouse, Playing with Fire at the National Theatre, and Cabaret and The Crucible for Sheffield Crucible. His design for dance includes Into The Woods and A Soldier’s Tale for Royal Opera House, Seven Deadly Sins for the Royal Ballet, Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands, The Car Man, Cinderella and Swan Lake; Carmen, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Giselle for Northern Ballet, and nIght LiFe and Just Scratchin’ The Surface for Scottish Ballet. His design for opera includes L’elisir d’amore for Glyndebourne, Hansel and Gretel for Opera Zuid/Opera Northern Ireland, and Le Roi Malgre Lui for Opera North.
Howard Harrison - Lighting

Howard Harrison has worked on extensive theatre projects both on the West End and on Broadway including Glengarry Glen Ross, Macbeth, Love Song, Guys and Dolls, Donkey’s Years, and Heroes (West End), Mary Poppins, (West End/Broadway), Mamma Mia! (West End/Broadway/international tour), The Vertical Hour (Royal Court) and Nutcracker! and Edward Scissorhands for Sadler’s Wells and on tour in the UK and the US. He has also worked on numerous opera and dance productions including Il Trovatore and Otello  for the Royal Opera House, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet for English National Ballet, and The Makropulos Case and Nabucco for the Metropolitan Opera, New York.
articles and reviews


"LaBute loads his dice in a fascinating way and Michael Attenborough’s involving production has two remarkable, unstrained performances from David Morrissey and Steven Mackintosh"
Michael Coveney,, 28 Nov 2008
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"Presented with skill...the play has a troubling fascination... Steven Mackintosh invests [Drew] with a vulnerable charm... Kira Sternbach endows the adolescent girl with a provocative sassiness" 
Michael Billington, Guardian, 28 Nov 2008 
Read full review 
"David Morrissey, an actor with Liam Neeson bear-like qualities, turns the older brother into an absorbing tragic everyman"

Patrick Marmion, Daily Mail, 28 Nov 2008

Read full review

"Michael Attenborough's taut production... Drew brilliantly played by Steven Mackintosh"

Nicholas de Jongh, Evening Standard, 28 Nov 2008

Read full review


"A highly charged journey…Steven Mackintosh [gives] a clever performance… David Morrissey is brutal, full of fury and loneliness"
Claire Allfree, Metro, 1 Dec 2008


"Morrissey is masterly here… the same is true of the script"
Ian Shuttleworth, Financial Times, 1 Dec 2008


David Morrissey "more and more impressive"
Benedict Nightingale, The Times, 29 Nov 2008


"Steven Mackintosh is whip-sharp"
Susannah Clapp, Observer, 30 Nov 2008


"Michael Attenborough's superbly acted production...powerful drama"

Jason Best, The Stage, 28 Nov 2008

Read full review


"David Morrissey reveals extraordinary depths of grief , damage and forgiveness"
Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph, 29 Nov 2008


"Two adult brothers played with desolate brilliance by David Morrissey and Steven Mackintosh"
Mark Shenton, Sunday Express, 30 Nov 2008


"Propelled by impassioned performances"
Mark Shenton, London Paper, 28 Nov 2008



David Morrissey interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show, BBC1, 14 December 2008


Watch interview

David Morrisey interviewed on BBC Breakfast, 8 December 2008


Watch interview

Michael Attenborough talks to Aleks Sierz about directing In a Dark Dark House, and the importance of American drama.
Interview for, 21 Oct 2008 
Listen to interview

Audience Reaction

"An intense and moving theatre experience, featuring universally top-notch performances, a great stage set and evocative music. Well done!"

"An absolutely splendid play, acting superb. It gave us a lot to think about."

"Excellent on all levels. Great writing. Great acting. Great production. Great set.  Well done to all concerned."
"Congratulations to all concerned with the production of In a Dark Dark House. I am a great fan of LaBute's work and this is one of his best. The actors were all amazing... David Morrissey, in particular, deserves praise for a tour de force performance."

"A very moving experience, wonderfully acted and produced. Another success for the Almeida!"
"A thoroughly enjoyable evening - wonderful theatre and acting - really loved it as usual - the subject matter was thought provoking..."

"This play was an amazing experience and the acting superb - especially David Morrissey. Thank you for offering tickets at a price that makes it possible to sample theatre of such high calibre and not break the bank. You offer an inclusivity that is lacking in other places. I love your theatre." 
"I have now seen In a Dark Dark House twice; it is perhaps LaBute's most interesting work since BASH and the trio of actors create a powerful experience for the audience of a complex and emotionally powerful exploration of abuse and of desire." 
"In a Dark Dark House - great show - really enjoyed our evening at Almeida. Look forward to visiting again soon."

"A powerful play, the performances and direction were first rate." 
"Superb; LaBute is really becoming a master craftsman and the cast carried off this complex and demanding play with great skill. This was marvellous theatre all round... Hurrah for the Almeida!" 
"I thoroughly enjoyed this play. It was a dark and disturbing tale that gave one food for thought and was so finely acted by all three actors. I think the Almeida Theatre a treat to visit. It is intimate and comfortable and one can feel almost a part of the plays. Congratulations!"

Watch Trailer

Watch the In a Dark Dark House trailer to see exclusive footage of the cast in rehearsal and an interview with writer Neil LaBute.

Video produced by Misfit Films. For further information please visit or email

Download trailer transcript

Rehearsal Blog

Week Six

The set has been moved from the rehearsal room to the theatre, so on Monday we used the empty rehearsal room to work on some specific moments in the play.

The actors took this opportunity to run the lines of the play at speed, moving around the space, but not necessarily interacting with each other. This gave them an opportunity to refresh themselves with the text and enabled them to concentrate on accessing their character’s thoughts whilst listening to the rhythm in the writing.

We had two days of technical rehearsals in the theatre. This is where we move the set and actors into the theatre and begin to add the technical elements of the show such as sound and lighting. Technical cues are plotted into the show so that they happen at exact points in the play each night. The dress rehearsals allow the director to revise cues and allow the actors to perform the show with all technical elements in place.

The technical rehearsals for the play were scheduled to last at least two days, but due to the straight forward nature of the piece we were finished at the end of the first day, with two dress rehearsals planned before the first preview.

The three previews went without a hitch with full auditoriums, and a warm appreciative response at the curtain call. Everyone has worked incredibly hard this week and produced a crackling, thought provoking and dare I say it, 'dark' piece of theatre which hooks you right from the start.

We have three more previews before Press Night.... 

Week Five

Our final week in the rehearsal room has been focused on running through the whole play this is followed by detailed notes for the actors about their performances. The notes focus on deepening the actors understanding of each line and helping them to express the emotional journey of their character. Each line is loaded with complex emotions, which shift and change as the play hurtles towards its conclusion and the play progresses each time we see it, and the emotional landscape of the characters becomes more detailed and yet larger every time.

The show’s director, Michael Attenborough, described to me how the actors are just starting to take flight with their performances, and that it is our role as directors to gently guide their performances in the right direction.

A useful exercise at this stage of rehearsals is for the actors to read their parts together this helps them to reconnect with the script, refreshing themselves with the dialogue. The actors are showing more ownership of the play which boosts their confidence and their performances.

There are some subtle sound effects in the play, mainly background noises of traffic or birdsong. So during the week, I have made a list of moments in the action where sound might be appropriate to enhance the story.
Next week, into the theatre.... 

Week Four

Week Four began with work on Scene Three, we ran through pages over and over, ironing out any creases within the text.

At the beginning of the week we had a production meeting, this si where all the technical departments that work on the show: wardrobe, lighting, sound, stage management, come together and discuss the show. This meeting focused particularly on props. As the play is set in America, it is important that the props are authentic and accurate to create a realistic American environment.

Penny Dyer, the dialect coach worked with Stephen and David in the theatre to ensure that their accents were accurate and that their accents were not lost when the actors project their voices in could project their accents into the auditorium. Both actors commented afterwards how much more energy and projection was required to fill the auditorium in contrast to the rehearsal room.

A complete run of scene one mid week, revealed a new emotional landscape as the power balance shifts between the brothers. The play continues to reveal layer after layer of depth and detail as unforeseen moments are discovered spontaneously during rehearsals.

At the end of the week, we attempted our first full run through of the whole play. Michael Attenborough, the play’ s director,  suggested that I should try and imagine that I know nothing about the play, but keep asking myself the following questions: Is the story clear? Do I care about he characters? Can I hear the text?

The run through went very well, with each player making strong and clear choices. It was great to see them draw all the little pieces together, from weeks of analysis and breaking the text down, to form a whole continuous flow of action.

Michael rounded the week off by suggesting that next week, our final week in the rehearsal room, we should run the whole play everyday. This will encourage the actors thought processes, enabling the actors to really fly with the rhythm of the text, and react instinctively with the moment, not from the necessity to deliver a line. 

Week Three

We picked up where we left off last Friday, working on Scene One. Fight co-ordinator Terry King, came in too work on a little horseplay between the brothers. Although fighting in the play it is light hearted play fighting, director Michael Attenborough felt that each move should be carefully choreographed to accommodate the dialogue the brothers have during the scuffle, and to minimize the chance of any injury to either of the actors.

Later in the week, Penny Dyer, the dialect coach, worked individually with the actors, preparing them to perform on the Almeida stage by working on voice projection, concentrating on diction, and perfecting the American accent.

As we worked on Scene One, Michael would offer suggestions and explore options for appropriate moments to sit, stand or move around the set. The first full run through of Scene One revealed dramatic gear shifts within the story.

Mid week, we started running Scene Two, stopping frequently for Michael to offer feedback to the actors on any moves that might appear contrived, words that cannot be heard or intentions behind the words that aren't clear.

By Friday, we launched into Scene Three, concentrating on the rhythm of the lines, colour of the language and perfecting the clarity of the story.

The atmosphere in the rehearsal room is very positive with many hours of focussed discussion mixed with intermittent eruptions of hysterical laughter.

Throughout the week, I gradually built up a montage of images inspired by references within the text, which covers one wall of the rehearsal room. The intention is to present a visual story of all the information stated within the play. 

Week Two

The second week in the rehearsal room started with director Michael Attenborough, sharing pieces of music to be used in the play. He suggested that the music should set up the scene for the audience, but not say too much about what is to come. We then recapped on the work from last week, discussing the thoughts, motivations and intentions of the brothers.
On Tuesday, Penny Dyer, the dialect coach came in to work on the American accent with actors David Morrissey and Stephen Mackintosh. Although David and Stephen have both worked with American accents before, Penny was able to work with them individually on specific sounds and articulation particular to the upstate New York area where In a Dark Dark House is set. The actress playing Jennifer, Kira Sternbach, is a born and bred American, so, was of course not required to work with Penny!
After lunch, Michael established scene two; the location of the scene, the entrances and exits and what props were needed. The actors then moved freely and loosely around the stage, as they ran their lines for the first time. Michael scrutinized every line of the text, steadily gathering the thought processes together, and suggesting some blocking, this is where the director plots the movements of the actor on stage. In doing this Michael reminded me of an artist applying preliminary brush strokes to the canvas.  
By mid week we had reached the final scene, and some small cuts were suggested. Michael felt there were moments where the text might be slightly over written, and this delicate trimming lead to a lengthy discussion concentrating on the story telling.
Every morning this week has begun with the actors running their lines, so they are able to rehearse on stage without the burden of carrying a script. Michael gets to hear the rhythm of a scene, and feeds back to the actors on the clarity of their storytelling. So far, Michael has focused on the text more than the blocking, noting moments and then resolving them through in discussion with the actors.
Neil was in rehearsals on Thursday to agree some edits, have some photos taken for publicity, and to say goodbye as he returns to America on the weekend. He will be back for a dress rehearsal before the opening performances.
On Friday, we started rehearsing scene one again, this time taking more time to plot moves on stage and giving the actors the opportunity to flex their acting muscles. 

Week One 

In a Dark Dark House started life as a short story called Swallowing Bicycles, before it was adapted into a play. This is the play's European Premiere and Neil LaBute's fifth play to be performed at the Almeida Theatre

Day one in the rehearsal room began with coffee, chocolate biscuits, a warm welcome from Michael Attenborough, director of the production and Artistic Director of the Almeida Theatre. This was followed by a read through of the play.

The action takes place on the east coast of America, and follows David Morrissey's character Terry as he discovers the dark truth about events during his childhood. In scene one, the dynamic between Terry and his estranged younger brother Drew, played by Stephen Mackintosh, is established. The next scene sees Terry meet a feisty teenager Jennifer, played by Kira Sternbach, followed by the final scene, where Terry confronts the truth about his past, and the face of his future.

Maps and photographs of the east coast of America were used to specify where each of the three scenes is set, and literature on the themes addressed in the play, were presented by Michael. David and Stephen started creating a history for Terry and Drew, exploring the complex dynamic between the brothers.

We were lucky enough to hvae the writer of the play Neil LaBute in rehearsals with us this week. Although the central themes of the play address issues of abuse and betrayal, Neil suggested that honesty, love, and self discovery are also important aspects of the story. He said We are the psychologists who analyse the characters, and by shining a light in the dark places of their minds, believable human beings can be portrayed on stage.

Michael worked through each page methodically, discussing and raising questions, which gave the actors a further opportunity to ask Neil about specific references in the text before he leaves the rehearsal room.

The language of the play is sometimes graphic and explores the dark side of human nature, but the high spirits and good humour in the rehearsal room has made every day very productive and positive.

By Friday, David and Stephen had learnt virtually all their lines for the first scene! With the advantage of having the set already assembled in the rehearsal room, Michael got them both on their feet, and we started gently working through the first scene..... 

The writing process - Neil LaBute

The dark at the top of my stairs

This one did not come easy.  I’ve been lucky in the past, writing plays with a frequency that at times would suggest it to be a weekend hobby; it’s not, of course, it’s hard work and none of them have ever come without a fight.  Obviously, each journey is different - on one occasion a text felt as if it had dropped out of the sky, complete and whole, and I merely had to transcribe it all in one big sitting. Others have been slaved over in pieces, coming in fits and starts as I struggled to makes sense of the characters or plot or both. The fact that my work appears with some regularity attests to the fact that, no matter how easy or hard the process is, in the end I sit my fat ass down and do the work. You can find as many methods for writing plays as there are teachers and self-help authors out there in the marketplace today, but I’ve never found anything that worked as well for me as the fine art of putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. In 1900, Anton Chekov wrote out a simple formula for a younger writer, Maxim Gorky, who had approached him asking for some advice. Chekov’s response was pure and straightforward: “Write, write, write!”  I’ve never come upon a maxim that makes any more sense to me than that.
But this one wasn’t as simple as that, for many reasons—starting with the title on down. I had originally decided to call the play “Swallowing Bicycles” because I’d first read the phrase in a statement made by Arthur Miller (in a reference to critics), and it seemed like a mysterious and singular name for a story. That was during year one of the process that created the piece you will see on the Almeida stage. This play was scheduled to be performed almost a year before it finally appeared in New York City at MCC Theater (in 2007); the fact that it didn’t happen the first time was due to two factors—something inside me felt like the script wasn’t ready yet and I was also eager for “Some Girl(s),” a show that had premiered in London almost a year earlier, to appear in NYC. This prompted both a shift in programming at the theatre and a change of heart in me. I continued to wrestle with my story, finding the center of it to be more elusive than I had first imagined. A new title was created along the way as well and that is how “In a Dark Dark House” was born. From the ashes of one script came several more revisions as I continued opening veins to get down to the truth. To the heart of the matter. The title itself was lifted in part from a section of Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes From a Marriage” which, while originally written for the small screen, is one of the finest dramatic texts I’ve ever read or witnessed. From all I’ve heard, Bergman appears to have been a lousy father but he’s one hell of a writer.
As you can probably already tell from this introduction—I’m not a very good liar, even though I keep working at it—this play is much closer to me than some of my others. It is still packed with fiction, much of the story leaping directly out of my imagination, but there is a kernel of hard fact and truth at the center of the tale. I too grew up in a dark house, one that was shrouded in shadows and sadness, and I understand quite deeply what the brothers in the story are going through. I too know what it’s like to lead a certain part of a life in secret, frightened by voices remembered and deeds done. The specifics are of little use to you and best forgotten by me but the core of this particular journey sheds at least a bit of light on my invisible youth. I lived under the roof of a small house with a man who scared me much of the time, a father whose quicksilver moods moved from euphoric highs to shattering lows. He was probably bipolar and maybe even worse; he had all the charm and chill of an anti-social personality that seemed hidden from most people but on full display in the ‘safety’ of the family home. My father passed away last year but he continues to haunt my work and myself--men don’t usually fare well under my pen as a result. I like them well enough, I just don’t trust them.
The legacy of my earlier life is that I don’t remember much about my childhood years. I can look back and see certain foggy images and a handful of lovely moments, but a lot of that time is lost to me now. Hidden behind a veil of menace and murk and quiet. It is not by coincidence that most of my plays begin with the words: “Silence. Darkness.”
Sam Shepard’s work is rife with difficult fathers and brothers at each other’s throats; it was easy enough to dedicate this work to a man who writes with the skill of an artist and the soul of a survivor. I had the good fortune to read some of my stories at an event with Mr. Shepard a few years ago—one of those weekends put together by the New Yorker magazine—and just to be there, listening to him read aloud from his newest work was a treat that I’ll never forget; to have him react positively to some of my own writing was a dream come true. Hey, you take your fatherly pats on the back where you can get them.
Anyway, was it rough growing up? I think so. Was I ever abused? As a matter of fact, yes. Is it all behind me now? On a good day. It’s interesting how life evens itself out in the end—I feel like I had a fairly tough go of it early on but by 20th Century standards, it was probably a cake walk. I’m still here, after all, so I don’t complain much. And you get a play out of the deal, so everything works out in the end. Ain’t life funny?
The version of the play on the Almeida Theatre stage is the product of a fruitful collaboration between myself and Michael Attenborough. Mike had many great ideas about the script and helped bring it to a new level. He alone saw through my heart of darkness to the light beyond. I can’t thank him enough.
Neil LaBute
October 2008

Arts Council England ASP Group