Adapted by Helen Edmundson and directed by Jonathan Munby, this is a highly intelligent and horribly compelling stage treatment of Zola's great 1867 novel of adulterous love, murder, and then the mutual disgust and psychological disintegration that ensue as the water-logged deed haunts and consumes the errant couple.
The glorious Pippa Nixon delivers a performance perfectly pitched to the production's propulsive, light-on-its-casters blend of the realist and the expressionist.
Initially, she's a blue-gowned, flightless bird caged in a sexless marriage to a hypochondriac mummy's boy (Hugh Skinner).
Then her husband's hot-as-all-hell friend (a Lawrentianly charismatic Kieran Bews) infiltrates more than their tight little circle of friends,whose fussy stifling routines are wittily captured by a fine group of actors led by Desmond Barrit.
The explosive erotic release between Therese and Laurent is depicted as a many-angled ballet of rapturous rutting abandon, graphic but not gratuitous.
I shan't give away how and why their subsequent marriage is dread-inducingly joyless, except to say that is not carried out in the clinical manner of Zola who treats the job as like dissecting a corpse.
Alison Steadman is transfixing as the murdered man's mother. She's paralysed by a stroke brought on by the shock. Only her eyes work and they are forced to witness horrors of hypocrisy before they are eventually and disturbingly gratified.