Stranger Things star lauded for West End performance

David Harbour, who plays Jim Hopper in Netflix's hit sci-fi series Stranger Things, has attracted plaudits for his role alongside Bill Pullman in Mad House.

David Harbour and Bill Pullman share a cigarette

David Harbour, who plays Jim Hopper in Netflix’s hit sci-fi series Stranger Things, has attracted plaudits for his role alongside Bill Pullman in Mad House.

Theatre critics have described both David Harbour and Bill Pullmans performances as ‘magnificent’ and ‘exemplary’, as they both star in the play about a son who has to care for his terminally ill father.

Speaking to BBC News, Harbour revealed how his own experiences with mental health issues informed the character development he brought to the role of Michael, after he discussed these with writer Theresa Rebeck.

Michael is tasked with caring for his father Daniel, who suffers from cancer, whilst trying not to let his own sanity fall apart, struggling to deal with arguments between his siblings over inheritance and his sister’s efforts to get him re-admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

Harbour said: “I’ve had experiences with what society would deem mental illness,” he explained after the play officially opened on Sunday.


David Harbour in the latest season of Stranger Things

“And certainly the cornerstone of that for me has been the idea that sometimes groups of people want to brand you crazy because you see life in a certain way, or have a certain sensitivity to the existential demands of consciousness.

“So the specifics are not mine, but the idea of someone who feels crazy in a world of callousness, is definitely at the heart of what I experienced when I was younger.

“I look out [into the audience] and a few people are crying, a few people are laughing,” Harbour said. “It’s one of those plays where it sort of sneaks up on you, because it’s really funny, it lures you in to dealing with these issues like death and mental illness, and the pain of everything, but it does it in such a fun way.”

Harbour’s performance, along with the rest of the cast, received a standing ovation after the curtain went down on Sunday night’s opening performance, with his wife, singer Lily Allen, spotted in the audience.

The play itself was deemed a mixed bag by critics, with The Times saying the first hour carries the performance in an “absorbing blend of dark and light, anguish and humour” before the “delicate balace goes awry later”.

Meanwhile The Independent noted that some elements seem to have been introduced as a mere box-ticking exercise, as “the show’s creators were so keen to knock things off at the two-hour mark that the play just ends, without resolving the assisted-suicide related moral dilemma it sets up.”

Playwright Theresa Rebeck has enjoyed a distinguished career in theatre whilst her film and TV credits include Law & Order, LA Law and the Jessica Chastain-starring action film The 355.

Harbour is also currently appearing in Netflix’s sci-fi horror Stranger Things, the latest episodes of which are due to be released on Friday.

The first few episodes of the fourth series prompted a resurgence of the Kate Bush song ‘Running Up That Hill’, which has topped the chart decades after its first release in 1985. The song, which is enjoying its second week at number one, is used throughout the series during pivotal moments of one character, Max.

Mad House, which is directed by Moritz von Stuelpnagel, is playing at London’s Ambassadors Theatre until 4 September.

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