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A co-production with Steppenwolf Theatre Company

a new play by Bruce Norris

12 March to 27 April 2019
Running Time: 2 hours 25 mins, including one interval


In downstate Illinois, four men convicted of sex crimes against minors share a group home where they live out their lives in the shadow of the offences they committed. A man shows up to confront his childhood abuser — but does he want closure or retribution?

This provocative new play zeroes in on the limits of our compassion and what happens when society deems anyone beyond forgiveness.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, Bruce Norris’ (Clybourne Park, The Low Road) new play, directed by Pam MacKinnon, comes to the National Theatre direct from its premiere at Steppenwolf, Chicago.

Content Advisory

Please note: Downstate discusses and contains graphic descriptions of child abuse and rape. There are also graphic depictions of self-harm and reference to drug use, that some people may find distressing. If you require further information, contact details are provided in our online Help centre.
If you have been affected by any issues raised in the production, the following charities offer free support:
NAPAC - Offers support to adult survivors and training for those who support them.
MIND - Provides support and advice to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. 

5 star rating

Vital and extraordinarily brave. The entire ensemble is magnificent

What's On Stage
5 star rating

A flawless play. Genuinely thought-provoking. Like a gritty Louis Theroux documentary

Daily Mail
4 star rating

Flecked with humour but bleak and haunting. Bruce Norris has a gift for making audiences squirm

Evening Standard
4 star rating

Smart, acutely funny and important

Daily Telegraph
4 star rating

A surprisingly sensitive, knotty drama

Time Out
4 star rating

There is a visceral power to the performances under Pam MacKinnon’s direction

4 star rating

Provocative. The acting is excellent throughout

5 star rating

Devised with Chicago’s blisteringly good Steppenwolf theatre company - a slow-burn that, by the end, has become a furnace

4 star rating

Superbly performed by all. A blistering but rewarding experience

Daily Express

Downstate | An interview with Aimee Lou Wood and Glenn Davis

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Downstate | Audience reactions

Downstate is a provocative new play that zeroes in on the limits of our compassion and what happens when society deems anyone beyond forgiveness. Here's what audiences during the original US run of the play thought.

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Downstate | An interview with director Pam MacKinnon

More info

5 things you might not know about Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Laurie Metcalf in The Glass Menagerie, Steppenwolf

Smart caption glasses

People wearing Smart Caption Glasses at a performance in the theatre

Smart caption glasses are a revolutionary new way for people with hearing loss to enjoy performances at the National Theatre. For the first time, service users can experience our productions, including this one, from any seat in any theatre.

Find out about smart caption glasses