Winter 2013-14 | December 2013 - February 2014


by Chris Thompson

Tuesday, 28 January – Saturday, 22 February 2014

The World Premiere

The entire run is now completely sold out including extra performances.

Extra performances by popular demand on

Thursday, 13 February at 3.00pm

Thursday, 20 February at 3.00pm

“He was scared shitless every minute he was in there. And he knew. He knew you lot was after him.”

A Finborough Theatre commission, the world premiere of a first play by Playwright on Attachment at the Finborough Theatre, Chris Thompson.

Tommy Anderson was born in a prison, and he died in one too. The last moments of his life are recorded on CCTV, and yet no one can answer the simple question: whose fault was it? 

His mother Anne blames Marcus, the guard who was supposed to be looking after him. Marcus, acquitted by the courts but tormented by his part in Tommy's death, wants the family’s social worker to admit to the role she played. And social worker Sue can’t work out when it was she stopped caring.

Piecing together a boy’s life and death in care, Carthage asks who should raise our children when the systems designed to protect them can be as abusive as the situations from which they were rescued.

First time playwright Chris Thompson works as a social worker. Over the last ten years, he has worked with young people in care, young offenders and in child protection, and currently works in young people’s sexual health in the NHS. Writing with honesty and humour, he confronts the big question that has haunted him his entire social work career: “What good did I actually do?”

Carthage is both a personal response to ten years of managing risk and intervening in other people’s lives - sometimes successfully, sometimes not – and an unflinching debut play about guilt, blame and the power of human touch.


Playwright Chris Thompson is the Channel 4 Playwright in Residence at the Finborough Theatre, where he makes his professional debut with Carthage. The play has won Chris a Channel 4 Playwright’s scheme bursary (formerly the Pearson Playwright Award), as judged by a panel including Sir Richard Eyre CBE, Michael Billington OBE and Indhu Rubasingham. The Finborough Theatre premiered an earlier version of Carthage as part of last year's Vibrant – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, the Finborough Theatre's annual festival of new writing. In 2013, Chris was invited to take part in the Royal Court Theatre’s Studio Writers’ Group and the Kudos/Bush Initiative. He is currently under commission to the Bush Theatre.


Director Robert Hastie returns to the Finborough Theatre where he directed the acclaimed first production in over 40 years of John McGrath's Events While Guarding the Bofors Gun, and Carthage as part of Vibrant 2012 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights. He directed the UK premiere of Sunburst by Tennessee Williams, as part of The Hotel Plays for Defibrillator at the Holborn Grange Hotel. As Associate Director for Sixty-Six Books, which opened the new Bush Theatre, he directed the world premieres of In The Land of Uz by Neil LaBute, The Middle Man by Anthony Weigh, David and Goliath by Andrew Motion, Snow In Sheffield by Helen Mort and A Lost Expression by Luke Kennard. He was Associate Director of Much Ado About Nothing starring David Tennant and Catherine Tate (Wyndham's Theatre). He co-founded The Lamb Players, for whom he has co-directed As You Like It and The Merchant of Venice. He has assisted Josie Rourke, Peter Gill and Laurie Sansom, and is an Associate Artist of the National Youth Theatre and a Connections Director for the National Theatre Connections programme. Robert originally trained as an actor at RADA, and his acting credits include work at the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, with Cheek By Jowl, Frantic Assembly and Headlong, and in the West End. He is currently Trainee Associate Director at the Donmar Warehouse.


Elaine Claxton | Karin Francis

Theatre includes Beasts and Beauties (Hampstead Theatre), Nation, The Relapse, A Winter’s Tale, Richard II, The Relapse and The Children’s Hour (National Theatre).

Television includes Wire In The Blood, Doc Martin, A Dinner of Herbs and Waking The Dead.

Claire-Louise Cordwell | Anne Anderson

Trained at RADA. Theatre includes Dangerous Lady (Theatre Royal, Stratford East), Beautiful Thing (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester), The Swan (National Theatre), There is a War (National Theatre), Ecstasy (Hampstead Theatre and West End), Oleanna (Theatre Royal York), Orphans (Paines Plough), The Frontline (Globe Theatre), Othello (Frantic Assembly), Torn (Arcola Theatre), Dirty Butterfly (The Young Vic), Days of Significance (Royal Shakespeare Company at the/ Tricycle Theatre), Burn / Chatroom / Citizenship (National Theatre), Stoning Mary (Royal Court THeatre) and Compact Failure (Clean Break).

Film includes Snow in Paradise, Stuart: A Life Backwards and The Curry Club.

Television includes Line of Duty ,The Honourable Woman, Holby City, Call the Midwife , Casualty , Doctors, The Bill, Law and Order UK, Day of the Triffids, EastEnders ,Trial and Retribution, Jane Hall’s Big Bad Bus Ride and Bad Girls.

Oliver Jackson | Simon Gale/Lou Martel

Theatre includes She Stoops To Conquer (National Theatre), The Glee Club (Bush Theatre and Duchess Theatre), Our House (Cambridge Theatre), Les Miserables (Palace Theatre), Erics (Everyman Theatre, Liverpool), A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich), Alice In Wonderland (West Yorkshire Playhouse) and two seasons at the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park.

Film includes Redirected, Entity, Les Miserables and Unlawful Killing.

Television includes Law and Order UK, Murderland, He Kills Coppers, Dalziel and Pascoe, The Bill, Doctors, 2:4 Children and Peak Practice.

Jack McMullen | Tom Anderson

Theatre includes The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Pilot Theatre at Theatre Royal York).

Film includes Seamonsters and The Hatching.

Television includes Waterloo Road, Moving On, The Street and Casualty.

Lisa Palfrey | Sue Ruskin

Theatres includes Before It Rains (Bristol Old Vic and Sherman Cymru, Cardiff), Canvas (Chichester Festival Theatre), The Kitchen Sink (Bush Theatre), Red Bud (Royal Court Theatre), Ingredient X (Royal Court Theatre), Small Change (Sherman Cymru, Cardiff), Blink (Tour and Off-Broadway for FAB Theatre Company), Gathered Dust And Dead Skin (Live Theatre, Newcastle), Festen (Lyric Theatre and Almeida Theatre), Under The Blue Sky (Royal Court Theatre), The Iceman Cometh (Almeida Theatre), Cardiff East (National Theatre), Under Milk Wood (National Theatre), Yerma (National Theatre Studio), Story of an African Farm (National Theatre Studio), Ghosts (Sherman Cymru, Cardiff) and House of America (National Tour).

Film includes Pride, Maybe Baby, Guest House Paradiso, House of America, The Deadness of Dad and The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain.

Television includes Family Tree, Blodau, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, The Bill , Armadillo, Casualty, Green Eyed Monster, Magistrates, Mind Games and Split Second.

Toby Wharton | Marcus Reeves

At the Finborough Theatre, Toby co-wrote and appeared in Fog (2012), His Greatness (2012) and Carthage as part of Vibrant 2012 – A Festival of Finborough Playwrights.

Trained at RADA.

Theatre includes Home (National Theatre), Days of Significance (Royal Shakespeare Company), Fog (National Tour), Shalom Baby (Theatre Royal, Stratford East), Ajax (Riverside Studios), and Transient (Pleasance Edinburgh and Shunt Vaults).

Film includes Absence, Echo Road, Postcode and Bashment Television includes Gates, Silent Witness and The Bill.

Chinna Wodu | Alex Sutherland

Theatre includes Julius Caesar (Royal Shakespeare Company at the Noël Coward Theatre), Dr Faustus, Troilus and Cressida (Shakespeare’s Globe), Italian Dreams, Teach Me (Soho Theatre) and Macbeth (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester).

Television includes Da Vinci’s Demons.


Post Show Discussion on Thursday, 13 February with Playwright Chris Thompson, director Robert Hastie, and social workers Rick Hood and Sue Roper

Rick Hood
Rick is a qualified social worker who currently works with children and families in the London area. Before becoming a social worker he did various jobs including youth work, translation, accountancy and lawn-mowing.

Sue Roper
Sue Roper is a qualified social worker who currently works in fostering. She has over twenty-five years experience of children and families social work.


★★★★★ Everything Theatre
★★★★★ West End Frame
★★★★★ The Upcoming
★★★★★ West End Wilma
★★★★★ So So Gay
★★★★ Time Out and Time Out Critics' Choice
★★★★ The Guardian
★★★★ Get West London
★★★★ What’s Peen Seen?
★★★★ The Good Review
★★★★ Exeunt
★★★★ The Public Reviews


“Brutally effective, unerringly inquisitive, indisputably compelling. January may only just have finished but it is not hard to imagine that we won’t be talking about Chris Thompson’s Carthage when it comes to totting up the best new plays of the year come December.” Ian Foster, There Ought to be Clowns

“The most riveting play of 2014 so far...Ninety minutes flew by in a grippingly captivating blur...A must see.” Andrew Tomlins, West End Frame

“A chastening but urgent 90 minutes.” Patrick Marmion, Time Out

“Carthage deserves every one of its five stars.” Jennifer Atkinson, The Upcoming

“Both demotic and incisive, mature, lean and psychologically complex - handling themes of guilt and responsibility sensitively, provocatively and intelligently.” Patrick Marmion, Time Out

“The play is full of humour that grows from its honest and real portrayal of its characters.” Howard Loxton, British Theatre Guide

“Cuttingly funny.” Ian Foster, There Ought to be Clowns

“There’s a vein of worldly wit in the writing.” Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard

“Beautifully rounded characters, full of the complexities of real life and the complicated motivations of those trying to do a good job.” Ian Foster, There Ought to be Clowns

“Heady but harrowing.” Robert Cumber, Get West London

“A definite must see.” Jamie Chapman-Dixon, West End Wilma

“Intense and very impressive.” Nick Holland, Partially Obstructed View

“A highly thought-provoking and moving original piece.” Hollie Goodall, What’s Peen Seen?

“The Finborough Theatre, which showcases new writing and talent, has once again struck gold with this brave new production, which takes an honest approach to the question of who is best placed to bring up children in today’s society. Whether it makes you laugh or moves you to tears, it’s certainly a play that will leave you thinking.” Hollie Goodall, What’s Peen Seen?

“Truly heartbreaking” Rebecca Robinson, The Good Review

“Truly affecting without being manipulative, Carthage will stay with you for longer than you’d like it to, a testament to its striking honesty, and fitting remembrance for all those failed by the systems designed to protect them.” Devawn Wilkinson, Exeunt

“A highly promising first play that leaves the audience to make its own deductions from the available evidence and which suggests that guilt can never be assuaged by a legal exoneration.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Thompson's subtle but powerful script.” Robert Cumber, Get West London

“Dialogue so sharp you could cut your tongue on it.” Robert Cumber, Get West London

“Thompson's writing is naturally funny, although one minute you're laughing and the next you find yourself deep in thought. Carthage is the best play I have seen for a very long time and I was absolutely shocked to discover the piece marks Chris Thompson's professional debut; but with Thompson in place as the Channel 4 Playwright in Residence at the Finborough Theatre...the future looks very exciting...” Andrew Tomlins, West End Frame

“I do know that you should see this play while you can. Carthage is an outstandingly executed piece of writing littered with honesty and frustration. It deserves the entire accolade it will no doubt receive throughout its debut at the Finborough.” Jennifer Bull, Everything Theatre

“This first play by Chris Thompson uses his 12 years' experience as a social worker to explore questions of guilt after the death in care of a 15-year-old boy. The play feels authentic, not surprisingly. More importantly, it has the moral ambivalence of good drama.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Chris Thompson’s fine debut, which likely has next year’s most promising playwright awards sewn up already...His writing is meticulous; both economic and controlled in its drip-feed of information. He cuts up the chronology cleverly and feeds us scraps and titbits, so that we’re constantly working to piece the narrative together without ever grappling against ambiguity.” Matt Trueman

“A razor sharp wit and ear for dialogue and speech that produces some brilliantly well-observed scenes.” Andy Moseley, The Public Reviews

“Cordwell, who plays Anne, has a fantastic sense of comic timing and vocal command..a phenomenal piece of theatre.” Haydn O'Reilly-Meredith, So So Gay

“Claire-Louise Cordwell gives a stand-out performance.” Andrew Tomlins, West End Frame

“Claire-Louise Cordwell gives a standout performance.” Hollie Goodall, What’s Peen Seen?

“The cast are superb.” Robert Cumber, Get West London

“The cast are tremendous.” Andrew Tomlins, West End Frame

“Jack McMullen is outstanding.” Andrew Tomlins, West End Frame

“Jack McMullen is outstanding.” Carolin Kopplin, UK

“Jack McMullen, as Tommy, is another blazing star of rage, bravado and bewilderment.” Devawn Wilkinson, Exeunt

“The performance of the night comes from Lisa Palfrey.” Andrew Tomlins, West End Frame

“Lisa Palfrey, as social worker Sue Ruskin, is simply outstanding.” Adrian Bradley, Broadway World

“The quality of acting from the cast of Carthage is second to none; right down to the tiniest detail.” Jennifer Atkinson, The Upcoming

“Stunning acting.” Patrick Marmion, Time Out

“Seven incredible actors that will leave you speechless.” Dean McCullough, London Theatre 1 “The four main actors of the piece – Tommy (Jack McMullen), Anne (Claire-Louise Cordwell), Marcus (Toby Wharton) and Sue (Lisa Palfrey) – are outstanding.” Jennifer Bull, Everything Theatre

“Toby Wharton as the death-haunted prison officer, Lisa Palfrey as the well-meaning social worker and Jack McMullen as the teenage Tommy all give fine support in a 90-minute play that takes you behind the headlines and shows that there are multiple sides to every story.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Strong, eloquent performances all round; from Jack McMullen as Tommy, for whom care only comes after trouble; from Toby Wharton as the ashen-faced, earnest prison officer scapegoated and abandoned by his employers, from Claire-Louise Cordwell as the hardened mother and from Lisa Palfrey as the good-humoured and patient social worker.” Matt Trueman, Matt Trueman

“McMullen and Cordwell act with an expert blend of genuinely- terrifying- to-witness aggression, spitting-hate and heartrending vulnerability.” Jennifer Bull, Everything Theatre

“Toby Wharton, who was so impressive in the excellent Fog, gives a touching performance.” Carolin Kopplin, UK

“Toby Wharton brings an interestingly measured sensitivity to Marcus.” Henry Hitchings, Evening Standard “Robert Hastie's gutsy direction.” Robert Cumber, Get West London

“Robert Hastie's production is a sinuously toned spectacle on a patch of institutional grey carpet set in a custard yellow surround by designer James Perkins.” Patrick Marmion, Time Out

“Robert Hastie’s production is brilliantly conceived too, full of insistent visual clues.” Ian Foster, There Ought to be Clowns

“Robert Hastie directs an intense and fast-paced drama.” Carolin Kopplin, UK

“Hastie’s pared-back production plays out with a growing momentum, as devastating as it is understated.” Devawn Wilkinson, Exeunt

“Robert Hastie's tense, taut production.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Robert Hastie’s production serves all this beautifully. It’s played explosively, but also with restraint. Motives and thought processes are always perfectly clear and he controls tempo and timbre with real skill, particularly in simple, slow-bleed scene changes.” Matt Trueman

“Robert Hastie’s production is taut and faultlessly acted.” Sam Marlowe, The Times


★★★★★ The Guardian
★★★★ WhatsOnStage
★★★★ The Telegraph

“The production is as good as anything you will find in London theatre...This superb revival by Robert Hastie” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“A tight, testosterone-fuelled production by Robert Hastie...there’s not one dud performance in the nine-member cast” Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“Masterfully directed by Robert Hastie.” Time Out


Tuesday, 28 January – Saturday, 22 February 2014

Tuesday to Saturday Evenings at 7.30pm.
Sunday Matinees at 3.00pm.
Saturday Matinees 3.00pm (from 8 February 2014).

Most performances are now sold out. Extra performances by popular demand on

Thursday, 13 February at 3.00pm

Thursday, 20 February at 3.00pm

Performance Length: Approximately 90 minutes with no interval.

28 January - 9 February 2014

Tickets £16, £14 concessions

except Tuesday Evenings £14 all seats, and Friday and Saturday evenings £16 all seats.
Previews (28 and 29 January) £12 all seats.

£10 tickets for Under 30's for performances from Tuesday to Sunday of the first week when booked online only.

£12 tickets for residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on Saturday, 1 March 2014 when booked online only.

11 February - 22 February 2014

Tickets £18, £16 concessions

except Tuesday Evenings £16 all seats, and Friday and Saturday evenings £18 all seats. 

For details of our Returns Policy for sold out performances, please click here


Directed by Robert Hastie

Designed by James Perkins

Lighting by Gary Bowman

Sound Design by Emma Laxton

Fight Direction by Philip d'Orleans

Casting by Alastair Coomer CDG and Vicky Richardson

Presented by Theatre Bench in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.