Writer: Eugene O’Neill
Director: Tony Cownie
Reviewer: Amy Taylor
A fractured family, living ghosts and themes of addiction and grief lie at the still beating heart of Eugene O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical play, Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Directed by Tony Cownie, this revival of a classic piece of American drama brings new life to the Lyceum’s stage for the New Year and celebrates the universality of O’Neill’s powerful family tragedy.
Taking place over a single day, from 8:30am to midnight on an August day in Connecticut in 1912, Long Day’s Journey Into Night delves into the hopelessness and pain of the Tyrone family. Following married couple Mary (Diana Kent) James (Paul Shelley), and their grown up sons, Jamie (Adam Best) and Edmund (Timothy N. Evers), the piece takes them on a journey from paranoia, addiction, tragedy, and ultimately heartbreak.
First performed in 1953, three years after O’Neill’s death and against his wish that it not be performed for 25 years after he died, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is often credited as a poshumous masterpiece, and the play has won various accolades and critical acclaim throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Punctuated with themes of regret, paranoia, guilt and loss, the piece, while originally written in the 1940s remains as relevant as visceral as it did upon its eventual premiere just over ten years later. By revealing the difficulties of his own family, O’Neill brought the plight of the modern American family to the stage, holding a mirror to the universal experience of familial relationships and the fallibility of the species. Long Day’s Journey Into Night is not just a cathartic dissection of O’Neill’s difficult past, but also a snapshot of familial angst that transcends time, culture and society.
Yet, the journey alluded to in the play’s title isn’t a physical one, but rather a passage through time, memory and the traumatic events of the family’s past. Indeed, the past is almost a character in itself; an unseen force that is both absent, but continually present, that follows each member of the family as the unhappiness of their present gives way to the hopelessness of their future. Highly emotional and at times, very intense, Cownie’s revival of this classic piece manages to not only encapsulate O’Neill’s feelings of pain and frustration, but bring them into the 21st century with the use of a strong cast, and an inspired set by Janet Bird, which perfectly represents the barriers and emotional distance between each of the characters. Good theatre should provoke a reaction, such as laughter while truly astounding theatre should completely move the audience and allow them to become totally immersed in the piece on stage. Cownie’s exceptional revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night easily manages this, and in doing so, kick starts what could be an extremely promising season of theatre for the Lyceum in 2014. A must see this January.
Runs until Saturday, 8th February |Photo courtesy:http://www.lyceum.org.uk/