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The Damned (Les Damnés)


Crackling with intensity, this triumphant spectacle directed by Ivo van Hove depicts the disintegration of a society, undone through a venomous alliance, the drama finding unsettling parallels today. 

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 audiences. Pulsating sound and arresting visual metaphors heighten the impact of a play that ‘really must be seen, sensed and felt’ (New York Stage Review).

Tagged with: Theatre & dance

This is show is part of the Spotlight on Comédie-Française festival at Institut français

Duration: 2 hours 10 mins, no interval
Age guidance 16+ (contains guns, gun fire, adult themes, graphic violence and nudity). Read further content guidance

Performed in French with English surtitles

Presented by the Barbican
Produced by Comédie-Française 

With the support of the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, including its Trust, the Friends of the French Institute, with particular acknowledgment to the donors Vincent and Florence Gombault, Marc and Odile Mourre, Bernard Oppetit and Olga Jegunova and Ingmar and Sabrina Vallano.


‘Van Hove’s chillingly prescient masterstroke‘
‘Rich and merciless production‘
New York Times
‘It is the French company’s first UK tour in nearly two decades. ‘


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Barbican Theatre