A classic crime story and passionate romance


Ivo van Hove, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Barbican

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Jude Law plays Gino, a stranger who ends up at Giovanna (Halina Reijn) and Giuseppe’s (Gijs Scholten van Aschat) roadside restaurant. A passionate affair arises between Gino and Giovanna. They forge a plan to murder him. Visconti’s Ossessione (1943) is both a classic crime story and a powerful social drama about what passion can do to people. Ivo van Hove has made a stage adaptation of the film with English and Dutch actors – which is based in turn on the novel The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934). Obsession is his fourth Visconti adaptation, and a grim vision of the dangers and desperation of life on the edges of poverty.

Background information

With his first feature film Ossessione (1943), Luchino Visconti (1906-1976) is a founder of neorealism in Italian cinema, a movement focusing on the struggle for survival of the poor working class in economically and politically hard times. They are rough and harsh 

films, invariably shot on location. Ossessione poses the question: Is freedom in poverty to be preferred over being restrained but wealthy? Visconti based his scenario on The Postman Always Rings Twice, a classic crime novel by James M. Cain with a ruthless view of the bottom of society. 

Director Ivo van Hove says that this film shows passion as an idealized image of the love between two people and, at the same time, the inability to make it last forever. He explains: ‘Along a deserted road, the vagabond Gino stops at a garage and roadside restaurant, where he finds a job with Giuseppe and his oppressed wife Giovanna. Like a cougar – powerful and gracious – Gino enters the territory of Giovanna. They mate. The seduction between the two predators is so strong that they decide to kill Giuseppe. But this crime does not bring them together. Gino is unable to stay in the same place for long and Giovanna has become too much of a domestic cat. The power of nature and the power of society devour their desire, their passion.’ 

Obsession will be Van Hove’s fourth project based on Visconti. He also directed Rocco and his brothers (Toneelgroep Amsterdam and Ruhrtriënnale) and Ludwig II (Münchner Kammerspiele). In July 2016, he created Les Damnés with the Comédie Française for the Festival d’Avignon at the Cour d’Honneur of the Palais des Papes. 

This special international coproduction with the Barbican Centre and Holland Festival premieres in April 2017 in London with a cast of English actors and actors from Toneelgroep Amsterdam. It will be performed entirely in English, with Dutch surtitles. The role of Gino will be played by Jude Law, who has previously played exceptional roles in both theatre (Henry V, Hamlet, AnnaChristie) and film (Sherlock, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Side Effects, ColdMountain). Dutch actors Halina Reijn and Gijs Scholten van Aschat will play the roles of Giovanni and Giuseppe.



Toneelgroep Amsterdam is a regular co-producer of the Holland Festival. The theatre group is one of the leading ambassadors of Dutch performing art in the Netherlands and around the world. With a brilliant ensemble of world- famous actors and a team of leading 

directors, it is the in-house company of Amsterdam’s Stadsschouwburg and performs on stages worldwide. Toneelgroep Amsterdam is led by Ivo van Hove, who has been instrumental in attracting sensational international directors to the group such as Thomas Ostermeier, Johan Simons, Krzysztof Warlikowski, Grzegorz Jarzyna, Luk Perceval and Guy Cassiers, as well as members of a new generation such as Maren E. Bjørseth, Sam Gold, Simon Stone and Susanne Kennedy. The group performs for around 110,000 people a year, helping ensure that repertory theatre remains an indispensable component of contemporary culture. 

Theatre director Ivo van Hove has held central positions in Dutch-Belgian cultural life, first as the head of Het Zuidelijk Toneel in Eindhoven from 1990 to 2000 and from 2001 as general director of Toneelgroep Amsterdam. Toneelgroep Amsterdam has been invited by international festivals such as RuhrTriennale, Wiener Festwochen, the Edinburgh Festival and Festival d'Avignon, and performs in The United States, Canada, Russia and Australia. He was artistic director of the Holland Festival from 1997 to 2004. 

Van Hove directed companies as the New York Theatre Workshop, the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, the Schaubuehne in Berlin and the Münchner Kammerspiele. He also staged productions at the Flemish Opera, La Monnaie in Brussels and in Amsterdam. In 2014 he staged the world premiere of the opera Brokeback Mountain at Teatro Real. Van Hove directed A view from the Bridge (2015) and The Crucible (2016) on Broadway and Lazarus, by Enda Walsh and David Bowie, in New York and London. 

Prize winning repertoire of the Toneelgroep Amsterdam includes Shakespeare's Roman Tragedies, Kings of war and The Taming of the Shrew, Tony Kushner's Angels in America, Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and John Cassavetes' Husbands and Opening Night

Van Hove has received many accolades, including two Obie Awards for off-Broadway productions in New York (for More Stately Mansions and Hedda Gabler). He was made a knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France in 2004. In 2007 he received the prize awarded by Dutch theatre critics. In 2008, he also received the Prosceniumprijs, the Dutch oeuvre prize, together with Jan Versweyveld, his stage designer for many years and in 2012 The Amsterdam Business Oeuvre Award. In 2016 Van Hove received the Amsterdam Art prize. In 2016, Van Hove has won two Tony Awards, two Drama League Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, two Outer Critics Circle Award and two Grands Prix de la Critique. King Philippe of Belgium appointed him Commander of the Order of the Crown and he received the Flemish Culture Prize Cultural Merit in 2015.



conceived and directed by
Ivo van Hove
set design and lighting
Jan Versweyveld
adaptation and dramaturgy
Jan Peter Gerrits
Tal Yarden
An d’Huys
composer and sound design
Eric Sleichim
English language version
Simon Stephens
UK casting
Julia Horan CDG
associate director
Jeff James
Jude Law (Gino), Halina Reijn (Hanna), Gijs Scholten van Aschat (Joseph), Robert de Hoog (Johnny), Chukwudi Imuji (The Priest/The Inspector), Aysha Kala (Anita)
produced by
Barbican Theatre Productions Limited and Toneelgroep Amsterdam
co-commissioned by
Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg and Wiener Festwochen
coproduced by
Holland Festival and David Binder Productions

This performance was made possible with support by