Review: Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Wyndham’s

Has Lesley Manville ever been better? She scorches through a beautiful production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night

“Who wants to see life as it is, if they can help it?”

Between scoring an Oscar nomination for Phantom Thread, returning to TV screens in superlative sitcom Mum and conquering one of the almighty stage roles written for a woman in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, it is safe to say that Lesley Manville is having a ‘moment’ as a potential queen of all media, and a well-deserved one at that – she is the kind of rare talent that is genuinely due this kind of adulation.

Richard Eyre’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s classic play was first seen at the Bristol Old Vic in 2016 (have a gander at m’review here) and it transfers to the Wyndham’s pretty much intact – Manville and Jeremy Irons leading the cast once again as the troubled Mary and Joseph Tyrone, with Rory Keenan and Matthew Beard stepping in as their sons. The returning Jessica Regan rounds out the cast as housemaid Kathleen. Continue reading “Review: Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Wyndham’s”

Review: Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Bristol Old Vic

“One day I found I could no longer call my soul my own”

There’s a lot of activity planned around the celebration of Bristol Old Vic’s 250th Anniversary but it is hard to imagine it being bettered than this stunning production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Eugene O’Neill’s emotionally gruelling autobiographical masterpiece of a play sees director Richard Eyre reunited with Lesley Manville whose last collaboration was the superlative Ghosts which was reason enough to visit Bristol, even before the small matter of Jeremy Irons being cast against her.

And so it turned out that, along with Rob Howell’s exceptional set design, is was Manville with the magic here. She plays Mary Tyrone, the matriarch of a family blighted both by the curse of addiction and an inability to talk about anything important. Her demon is morphine, her older son’s is alcohol and her younger son is seriously ill with tuberculosis but such is the rod of iron with which father James rules the roost, that these uncomfortable truths are rarely, if at all, confronted. Continue reading “Review: Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Bristol Old Vic”

Review: The Hairy Ape, Old Vic

“I ain’t on oith and I ain’t in Heaven, get me? I’m in de middel tryin’ to seperate em, takin all de woist punches from bot’ of ’em”

Fans of Bertie Carvel have certainly been rewarded with his recent burst of activity – he starred in Bakkhai at the Almeida, had a major role in BBC drama Doctor Foster and now returns to the theatre to lead this revival of Eugene O’Neill’s play The Hairy Ape. The play is described as a classic expressionist masterpiece and whilst that might be overstating things ever so slightly, it does give a useful pointer to the heightened theatricality of the drama and of Richard Jones’ production. My 4 star review for Cheap Theatre Tickets can be read here.

Running time: 95 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Manuel Harlan
Booking until 21st November

 

 

Review: Ah, Wilderness!, Young Vic

 “You don’t suppose he’s been…
‘No, that’s love not liquor'”

It’s a little surprising and indeed disheartening to see that not even the cachet of two multi-award-winning productions in the last year can guarantee bums on seats on a Friday night at the Young Vic. We must have had 8 empty seats on our row for Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! which is sad to see though to be fair, it wasn’t anywhere near that bad in the rest of the theatre. It just goes to show the unpredictability of the British theatre audience, especially when the lure of a Hollywood star isn’t there.

Personally, I rather enjoyed Natalie Abrahami’s production of this precursor to Long Day’s Journey Into Night, an imagined idealised version of his childhood that is given a further push into a dreamworld by the presence of an adult author-figure interwoven into the action, filling in minor roles where necessary, a persistent reminder that this is the realm of the memory play. It’s a gently intriguing choice, one underlined by the imaginative slant of Dick Bird’s sand-strewn set design and Charles Balfour’s evocative lighting, but it is one which works. Continue reading “Review: Ah, Wilderness!, Young Vic”

Review: Lange Dagreis Naar De Nacht, Amsterdam Stadsschouwburg

Verleden is heden, of niet? Het is ook de toekomst. We proberen onzself daaruit te liegen, maar het leven drukt ons er met de neus op.”

For those new to Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece Lange Dagreis Naar De Nacht / Long Day’s Journey Into Night, the opening image of Ivo van Hove’s masterly adaptation for Toneelgroep Amsterdam sets the tone accurately as a family drama as the four Tyrones – mother, father, two sons – embrace. But it’s a disarming sequence too, as the next three hours sees this nuclear family unit exploded as drug addiction, terminal disease, alcohol abuse and the bitter frustrations of past and present tear them apart. And they each float around the vast stage of their modern home like isolated atoms, the mind is drawn back to that opening image, reminding of the tragedy of the disintegration in front of us.

And though Jan Versweyveld’s beautiful set stretches across a wide and deep space with just the minimalist touches of design, van Hove’s production swells to fill it to the brim with the bruised pain, aching recriminations and crushed dreams of these four who are lost in this world, their inescapable own little worlds in fact, that simultaneously keep them trapped here yet unable to interact in a meaningful way. That opening embrace is inspired by Mary’s return from treatment for her scarcely acknowledged morphine addiction but over the course of the day that follows, the ‘long day’ of the title, her return provokes the subtlest of shifts in their collective self-delusion. Continue reading “Review: Lange Dagreis Naar De Nacht, Amsterdam Stadsschouwburg”

Review: The El. Train, Hoxton Hall

“So the night recedes too, until at last it must die and join all the other long nights in nirvana”

So Ruth Wilson is a god amongst mere mortals, you all know that right? Probably one of the most exciting actresses working at the moment, Hollywood has now come a-calling and she should surely have been a shoo-in for Doctor Who if she were so inclined (although given her inimitable excellence as the devilish Alice Morgan in Luther, perhaps she is destined to be the next regeneration of the Rani…) and so her return to the stage in any shape or form is something to celebrate. And in The El. Train, this triple bill of Eugene O’Neill one-act plays, her artistic wings fledge even further as whilst she appears in the first two, she makes her directorial debut in the third.

Wilson has form with O’Neill of course – her Anna Christie at the Donmar was rightfully hugely lauded and she slips right back into the groove perfectly. She effortlessly holds the stage as the busying Mrs Rowland in Before Breakfast, struggling to make ends meet whilst her feckless husband languishes out of work, ballsily confident whilst yelling at him from the kitchen and sneaking guiltily satisfying sips of grog from the cupboard. Likewise in The Web that follows, her ability to conjure the most intensely felt of emotions at the drop of a hat is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to witness, especially in the intimately historical surroundings of Hoxton Hall. Continue reading “Review: The El. Train, Hoxton Hall”

Review: Strange Interlude, National Theatre

“What am I doing here?”

When a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude was first announced as part of the National Theatre’s summer programme, the five hour running time of the original struck a note of fear in many a heart of those who are used to the cheap seats in the Lyttelton Theatre. And though it has been trimmed down to 3 hours 20 minutes in Simon Godwin’s production, it still proves something of a considerable challenge – not least because I could not see for the life of me why it has been revived.

Due to its length and winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1928, it is no surprise that it ticks the ‘rarely performed classics’ box and featuring an absolute doozy of a central female role in Nina Leeds, it is no typical piece of theatre. Sadly, its main innovation – characters speaking their many, many internal thoughts out loud as asides – is one which felt far too similar to last week’s Passion Play to really impress. And it also makes what ought to be more seriously considered drama into an unexpected campfest that feels more like an American soap opera like Dynasty or Sunset Beach but with none of the schlocky enjoyment. Continue reading “Review: Strange Interlude, National Theatre”

Review: Desire Under The Elms, Lyric Hammersmith

“Ye make a slick pair of murderin’ turtle-doves”

It’s been a slow but increasingly steady journey into the world of Eugene O’Neill for me: since 2010’s Beyond The Horizon, high profile productions of Anna Christie and Long Day’s Journey Into Night confirmed his reputation was indeed well earned (I do like to be able to make up my own mind on such things, I hate being told “so and so is the greatest playwright” and being expected just to accept it). And after The Hairy Ape at the Southwark Playhouse, it is now the turn of the Lyric Hammersmith to get in on the action with Sean Holmes’ production of his 1924 play Desire Under The Elms

Drawing heavily from Greek tragedy and in particular the tale of Phaedra, O’Neill locates his story in 19th century New England but mines a similar vein of earth-shattering catastrophe. Son of his father’s second wife, Eben is determined to secure the family farm for his inheritance. He pays off his two older half-brothers as they depart for the Gold Rush, but his father Ephraim is a randy old goat and marries for the third time, scuppering Eben’s plan as his new young wife Abbie stakes her own claim. But matters are further problematized by an illicit attraction between son and stepmother and when Abbie falls pregnant…well, do you think there’ll be a happy ending? Continue reading “Review: Desire Under The Elms, Lyric Hammersmith”

Review: The Hairy Ape, Southwark Playhouse

“Dat’s de stuff! Let her have it! All togedder now! Sling it into her! Let her ride! Shoot de piece now! Call de toin on her! Drive her into it! Feel her move! Watch her smoke!”

I loved Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie at the Donmar last year and thought his Long Day’s Journey Into Night was truly exceptional when I caught it earlier this year, so the prospect of one of his lesser known works – The Hairy Ape – at the ever-inventive Southwark Playhouse was one that intrigued and so I let myself be talked into catching it just before it closed. It is definitely closer to the former of the above-mentioned plays in its primal expressionism, tales of the sea and the search for belonging.

In the engine room of a transatlantic liner, Yank is the king of his world, leading his team of workers as they shovel away. His certainties are stripped away when a young upper class lady makes her way below-deck, leaving shocked and horrified at what she sees but opening Yank’s eyes to life beyond what he knows. His reaction is to try to find out what disgusts her but he soon discovers that she represents a whole world that doesn’t or won’t accept him. Continue reading “Review: The Hairy Ape, Southwark Playhouse”