Buried Child

Previewed 14 November 2016, Opened 1 December 2016, Closed 4 March 2017 at the Trafalgar Studios in London

A major revival of Sam Shepard’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Buried Child starring Ed Harris in his West End stage debut

Dodge and Halie are barely hanging on to their farmland and their sanity while looking after their two wayward grown sons. It’s a curious homecoming for Vince, the grandson nobody seems to remember; particularly as his girlfriend can’t stop laughing at his apple-pie dream of a childhood house – until she steps inside that is, and meets the half-crazed relatives. Violence is never far from the surface in this claustrophobic domestic world, and the unexpected reunion triggers catastrophe. A piercing, darkly comic portrait of a family rent asunder, set in America's heartland.

That’s about enough outa’ you! You got some funny ideas. Some damn funny ideas. You think just because people propagate they have to love their offspring? You never seen a bitch eat her puppies? Where are you from anyway?

The cast features Ed Harris as 'Dodge', Jeremy Irvine as 'Vince', Amy Madigan as 'Madigan' and Charlotte Hope as 'Shelly' with Barnaby Kay as 'Tilden', Gary Shelford as 'Bradley' and Jack Fortune as 'Father Dewis'. Directed by Scott Elliot. Scott Elliot's London credits include Jesse Eisenberg's The Spoils at the Trafalgar Studios in 2016. Sam Shepard's West End credits include Fool for Love starring Juliette Lewis and Martin Henderson at the Apollo Theatre in 2006.

When this production opened here at the Trafalgar Studios in December 2017, Ann Treneman in the Times highlighted that "the Hollywood star Ed Harris is magnificent as the curmudgeonly Dodge... Amy Madigan is frighteningly realistic as a woman who has no idea that she is drowning not waving." Neil Norman in the Daily Express thought that, "although it lacks dramatic tension and the first act is painfully slow, director Scott Elliott ramps up the Gothic atmosphere. It is also very difficult to take your eyes off Ed Harris." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard said that "there can be no doubting the allure of this beguilingly slow-burn production, featuring Hollywood star Ed Harris and his real-life wife Amy Madigan... Scott Elliott has crafted a rich production with a mesmeric quality and a rare confidence to take its time." Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail wrote that "Ed Harris is skillful, his resonant voice and craggy face helping to convey a strong idea of an irascible old redneck. Some of the show’s support acting is also worth a glance. I wish I could say the same about Sam Shepard’s play, a loathsome offering which manages to be both thuddingly allegorical and pretentiously cryptic." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph described how "Sam Shepard interleaves memorable phrase-making with clunking exposition and Scott Elliott's production only partially persuades you this a modern classic...but Ed Harris devotees won't be disappointed." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times said that "Scott Elliott's fine cast draws out the howling emptiness blowing through this withering depiction of an American dream in tatters." Michael Billington in the Guardian commented that, "haunting as Shepard’s play is, a faint air of portentous reverence overhangs Scott Elliott’s production."

Although this is the play's second London revival - it is the first time it has been presented in the 'commercial' West End. It was originally staged by Nancy Meckler at the Hampstead Theatre in North London from June to August 1980 in a production that featured Julie Covington, Stephen Rea, Marty Cruickshank, Neil Johnston, Philip Davis and Tony Rohr with designs by Gemma Jackson. It was then revived by Matthew Warchus at the National Theatre from September to December 2004 with a cast that included Lauren Ambrose.

"Welcome to Trump's America. Not Manhattan, with the tower that bears the Donald's name, but the dying Illinois farmstead of Sam Shepard's 1978 play where, in this gripping revival, four times Oscar-nominated Ed Harris is grizzled farmer Dodge. The former alpha male head of a prosperous farm is now a paraplegic, decaying as fast as the isolated house in which he sits smoking and coughing. If you're looking for this play's modern relevance, this is the forgotten America without whose vote Trump would not have won. In Scott Elliott's superbly acted New Group production, Dodge's haranguing, Jesus-loving wife Halie is played by Harris' real-life spouse and fellow Oscar-nominee Amy Madigan, while rising star Jeremy Irvine is Vince, the visiting grandson who no one recognises. All are terrific, though the real revelation is British actress Charlotte Hope as Vince's LA girlfriend Shelly. Shelly is the savvy, sardonic observer of the dysfunctional household into which she has been reluctantly planted. She's like Ruth in Pinter's The Homecoming, who overcomes the threat posed by primitive men - Dodge's grown-up, unhinged sons, the keepers of a harrowing family secret. Shepard's play leaves little to the imagination and reveals a nightmarish alternative to the US obsession with the perfect family." The London Metro

"Ed Harris's performance is the main draw here. It is hard to believe that he hasn't been sitting for years on the grimy sofa, where he scrabbles for his whisky bottle hidden among the cushions, his crafty blue eyes watching what's going on. He is suspicious of his wife, who is all dressed up to go out, and of his emotionally damaged eldest son, who arrives with armfuls of corn; and understandably wary of the other son, who brutally attacks him with hair clippers. When his grandson arrives unexpectedly with his girlfriend, Dodge stubbornly refuses to recognise him... Scott Elliot's production is short on gothic and struggles too hard for realism, exposing the clunkiness of Shepard's structure, but Harris is outstanding." The Sunday Times

Buried Child in London at the Trafalgar Studios 1 previewed from 14 November 2016, opened on 1 December 2016 and closed on 4 March 2017


Buried Child - National Theatre 2004

Previewed 18 September 2004, Opened 29 September 2004, Closed 15 December 2004 at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre (in repertory)

A major revival of Sam Shepard's 1979 Pulitzer prize-winning play Buried Child in London featuring Lauren Ambrose and directed by Matthew Warchus.

The cast features Lauren Ambrose as 'Shelley', Brendan Coyle as 'Tilden', M. Emmett Walsh as 'Dodge', Elizabeth Franz as 'Halie', Sean Murray as 'Bradley', Sam Troughton as 'Vince' and John Rogan as 'Father Dewis'. Directed by Matthew Warchus with designs by Rob Howell, lighting by Natasha Katz, music by Gary Yershon and sound by Paul Groothuis.

"Meeting the in-laws can be tricky. Especially if they're crippled amnesiacs obsessed with vegetables who want you to suck their fingers. Such is the case in Buried Child, Sam Shepard's 1979 Pulitzer prize-winning play now at the Lyttelton, which rummages through the wreckage after a the implosion of a nuclear family in deepest Illinois... Not until the end do we quite work out what's happened, but it's hardly a surprise - there's a clue in the title, and another in Dodge's thoughts on parental affection: 'Never seen a bitch eat her puppies?' But the action matters less than the set-up, which is so magnificently gruesome it's just a pleasure to sink into the seamy muddle of madness and lucidity, incest and loathing. It's brilliantly, unpredictably directed by Matthew Warchus, with some great howling guitar and fence-clattering blues blasting out between scenes. The acting is first-rate, with Franz and Coyle particularly convincingly deranged. Remember, home is where the hurt is." The Sunday Telegraph

"I thought there was some mistake when Sam Shepard's Pulitzer prize-winning play Buried Child was described as a comedy. Shepard tends to miss the funny side of life. This play, however, is full of dark, mordant farce... Matthew Warchus's pitch-perfect and brilliantly performed production brings out all the savage comedy, the terrible tragedy and the wildly poetic theatricality in this desperate family drama filled with buried secrets... Lauren Ambrose, from Channel 4's Six Feet Under, is particularly good as the outsider who responds to this strange, unnatural and scarily unpredictable house of horror as anyone would: appalled, fascinated and increasingly eager to get the hell out." The Mail on Sunday

Buried Child in London at the Lyttelton Theatre (National Theatre) previewed from 18 September 2004, opened on 29 September 2004 and closed on 15 December 2004