The River was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 18 October 2012. An intensely allusive, non-linear psychodrama, it was Jez Butterworth's first major play to be performed since Jerusalem (2009), which had also premiered at the Royal Court and had gone on to become a huge critical and commercial hit.
On a moonless night in August when the sea trout are ready to run, a man brings his new girlfriend to the remote family cabin where he has come for the fly-fishing since he was a boy. But she's not the only woman he has brought here – or indeed the last.
Like Jerusalem, The River was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Ultz. The cast was led by Dominic West, an actor with star credentials from his lead performance in the HBO television series The Wire (2002–08). The production was staged in the Royal Court's smaller Upstairs venue, and tickets were released only on the day of each performance: decisions for which the Royal Court was criticised in some parts of the media. The production was nonetheless a critical success, with most critics praising the play's enigmatic, lyrical qualities and its craftsmanship.
The River received its Broadway premiere at Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre on 16 November 2014 in a production directed by Ian Rickson, starring Hugh Jackman, Laura Donnelly and Cush Jumbo.