The Winterling was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre, London, on 2 March 2006. Written with Jez Butterworth's characteristic flair, it is full of black humour, menace and mind-games.
In a dilapidated farmhouse on Dartmoor, West is waiting. A former gangster in exile from London, he has summoned his old associates, Wally and Jerry. But Jerry is dead, and Wally brings along his twenty-five-year-old stepson, Patsy, as a replacement. A territorial struggle rapidly develops as, towards the end of the first act, West interrogates Patsy about a nearby ancient hillfort. Patsy asks West about a young woman he has glimpsed at the window. Act Two jumps back a year and shows West, as a broken man, meeting Draycott, a vagrant who lives in the farmhouse. Through him, he meets Lue, an unusual young woman. It emerges that West was once a hitman, and that he was tortured by Wally and Jerry for falling asleep on a job. He dispossesses Draycott and makes a deal with Lue. Act Three returns to the present, with West, Patsy and Wally all attempting to outmaneuver each other, and West finds himself locked into a deadly game for his own survival.
The Royal Court premiere was directed by Ian Rickson and designed by Ultz, with Robert Glenister as West, Roger Lloyd Pack as Draycott, Jerome Flynn as Wally, Daniel Mays as Patsy and Sally Hawkins as Lue.