from an original work by Émile Zola
Thérèse Raquin is a novel by Émile Zola, first published in 1867. It was a commercial and artistic success for the writer, who later adapted it himself for the stage in 1873. It was first performed at the avant-garde Théâtre de la Renaissance and garnered decidedly mixed reviews. Zola’s preface to the play laid out his intentions to revolutionise the stale contemporary theatre of the day by jettisoning the ‘well-made play’ and moving theatre once more into the realm of high tragedy.
Stifled by an oppressive mother-in-law and a sickly husband, Thérèse Raquin falls passionately for anther man. Their feverish affair drives the lovers to an act of terrible desperation, which catapults them headlong into a world more claustrophobic than the one they originally sought to destroy. The play puts Thérèse’s inner life centre-stage. The frank examination of her sexual desires and the revelation of the opacity of human motive are both modern dramatic techniques. In fact, Zola remarked that this play was a study of temperaments, not characters. This is perhaps what marks Thérèse Raquin as something of a scandalous yet groundbreaking work of art.
Nicholas Wright first produced an English-language version of Thérèse Raquin is 1990 for a production at the Minerva Theatre in Chichester. He was later asked to rework it for the National Theatre in London where this version premiered in 2006.