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Absolute Hell Tickets

National Theatre - Lyttelton

Kate Fleetwood stars in a new production of Rodney Ackland’s Absolute Hell at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre for a strictly limited run. Set in post-war Soho, the play sees a raucous nightclub group engage in fights and flirting throughout the night.

Kate Fleetwood stars in a new production of Rodney Ackland’s Absolute Hell, playing at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre for a strictly limited season. Originally named The Pink Room, the play premiered in Brighton in 1952 and was panned by critics for being overly provocative. During the 1980’s, Ackland rewrote the play, renaming it Absolute Hell.

Absolute Hell was first staged in 1988 at the Orange Tree Theatre and became a critical success. Set in a post-war Soho club, desperate members drink, fight and flirt into the early hours, night after night.

The large, ensemble cast includes Kate Fleetwood, Jenny Galloway, Jonathan Coote and Carole Dance. They share the stage with Esh Alladi, Joanna David, Charles Edwards, Patricia England, Aaron Heffernan, Lloyd Hutchinson, Martins Imhangbe, Stephanie Jacob, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Anita Reynolds, John Sackville, Liza Sadovy, Jonathan Slinger, Eileen Walsh and Danny Webb.

Director Joe Hill-Gibbons takes on the play 23 years after it was first staged at the National Theatre. Hill-Gibbons is an associate artist at the Young Vic, with credits including Edward II at the National and Measure for Measure at the Young Vic. Further creative team includes set designer Lizzie Clachan, costume designer Nicky Gillibrand, lighting designer Jon Clark and sound designer Paul Arditti.

This controversial play was adapted for the BBC in 1991 starring Dame Judi Dench but is otherwise not widely known. A part of British theatre history before the abolition of the Lord Chamberlain’s theatre censorship powers, it was considered ‘a libel on the British people’ when it was first staged.

Absolute Hell runs for a limited season at London’s National Theatre, playing from 18 April to 16 June 2018 on the Lyttelton stage, with a press night on 25 April 2018.

Sorry this show closed 16 June 2018, we recommend these similar productions.

Slave Play
The Constituent
A View From the Bridge
Performance dates:
16 Jun 2018 - 16 Jun 2018
Age recommendation:
Not suitable for children
Audience Notes:
British history aficionados won’t want to miss this relic of post-WWII London. Joe Hill-Gibbons is known for his reinventions of classic plays, so his take on Absolute Hell will no doubt be edgy and relevant.

Absolute Hell Reviews

25 Reviews
  • 5 Stars8%
  • 4 Stars36%
  • 3 Stars24%
  • 2 Stars12%
  • 1 Stars20%

User Reviews


The show was actually not bad, for a show that's about post World War 2 it was amazing and made me see what happened post World War 2. I loved the basic set and the amazing acting.

Performance date: 21 May 2018

This show is funny and dark, and the acting is simply superb. Charles Edwards and Kate Fleetwood are incredible as the leads and the whole cast is sublime. My only criticism is that it is simply too long.

Performance date: 25 April 2018

I adored this play. Powerful and heartbreaking. An incredible ensemble cast and you were really swept away in the story. Brilliant.

Performance date: 28 April 2018
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