Almeida, London ★★★★✩
A SIX-YEAR-OLD girl hands a teacher looking after her a heart-shaped lollipop. He gently suggests she give it to a friend instead.
Three days later, the teacher is suspended after the child accuses him of indecent exposure. In days, three more come forward saying the same thing — and his rural community turns violently against him.
Tobias Menzies, soon to replace Matt Smith as Prince Philip in The Crown, is riveting as lonely, maligned teacher Lucas in David ‘Night Manager’ Farr’s adaptation of a 2012 Danish film, which fits the vigilante climate of our times like a glove.
His face as taut as a violin string, Lucas is both stupefied by what has occurred and horribly aware that his reclusive disposition immediately condemns him.
Rupert Goold directs with all the simmering tension of a Scandi noir thriller on a bare set dominated by an eerie glass box, which serves as a classroom, house and church, plus the drinking den where men knock back beer before hunting deer.
It’s all a bit Wicker Man — the men chant and figures sporting stag masks loom — and you wonder whether something more naturalistic might have better rammed home the everyday nature of hyper masculinity.
Yet the glass box also symbolises the way community structures can convey the impression of order while concealing a darker chaos. This piece lays bare the modern reflex to cast blame elsewhere rather than look within — and the way the most damaging forms of abuse are often those less easy to see.