Evil

An adaptation of Jan Guillou’s semi-autobiographical novel, which went on to become an Oscar-nominated film in 2003, Evil tells the story of systematic bullying and brutality at an elite Swedish boarding school. This one-man show meditates on cycles of violence and the nature of resistance, but at its heart is some top-class storytelling.

Evil is storytelling at its best.

Erik (Jesper Arin, who also directs) is repeatedly beaten by his father, until his criminal activities at school leads to expulsion and he’s sent away to boarding school. There, a system of “peer mentoring” gives older students a reign of violence over the rest of the school, and Erik attempts to break the system.

The school that Guillo’s novel is based on, Stjärnsberg, closed down in the 70s, but as recently as 2013 Lundsberg Skola (described as “the Eton of Sweden”) was forced to close temporarily after an initiation ritual hospitalised two children. Not only is systematic bullying in boarding schools (in Sweden and no doubt closer to home) far from a thing of the past, but Stjärnsberg acts as a microcosm for tyranny, and Erik’s attempts to stand up to his tormentors become a searching analysis of the ethics of protest, especially when his best friend Pierre becomes the target of the bullies’ violence.

Arin is somehow perfect for the role of Erik, conveying the character’s fundamental decency but also the steely thought patterns and easy recourse to violence that allow him to get through his brutal childhood. He is utterly believable as an adult Erik looking back on events, subtly and delicately capturing the impact Erik’s suffering would have on his personality as an adult.

His performance is understated, instead relying on vibrant storytelling rather than visceral displays of emotion. The gruesome details of Benny Haag’s adaptation of the novel speak for themselves, and are effectively underplayed in moments like when Arin affably opens his monologue with a detailed description of child beating. When Arin does want to make an emotional impression, he does so with simplicity and efficiency – through the winces, as he relives blow after blow.

Evil is storytelling at its best and its tale of violence and oppression will leave you gripped and appalled in equal measure. Arin is utterly superb in a conversational and naturalistic performance that beautifully realises Erik’s complex character.

Reviews by Simon Fearn

Paradise in The Vault

Hyena

★★★★
theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

Bull

★★★
theSpace @ Jury's Inn

Broken Fanny

★★★★
Quaker Meeting House

Five Kinds of Silence

★★★★
SpaceTriplex

About a Girl

★★★
theSpace @ Jury's Inn

Procrastinate

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Twenty years ago Erik was sent off to a prestigious boarding school. Free from an abusive past, with a new best friend, he dreamt of starting anew. After last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe sell-out show Beethoven in Stalingrad, Arin is back with critically acclaimed show Evil, based on the award-winning bestseller by Jan Guillou. 'This is a masterclass in art of storytelling... distressing... gripping... riveting' ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). 'The play refuses to simplify... leaving us uncomfortably pondering the questions it raises and wondering about the evil lurking in all of us' ***** (ThreeWeeks).

Most Popular See More

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £36.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mary Poppins

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Matilda the Musical

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets