Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Eugene O'Neill
HOME & Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
HOME, Manchester
10 May 2018 to 26 May 2018

Eugene O’Neill poured his heart, soul and much of his own life’s experience into this play and 60 years after its first performance it loses none of its intense potency.

It’s been performed everywhere, sometimes - it has to be said - almost out of a sense of theatrical duty, than as a rewarding audience experience.

More than three hours cooped up in the company of the warring Tyrone family make particular demands on all involved. On stage, four central characters wallow in their failure and self pity. Off stage, theatregoers are confronted with this concentrated self-absorption and can find themselves constantly shifting allegiance between each member of the Tyrone quartet.

So it’s pleasing to say that this co-production between Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre and HOME works on every level, not least in designer Tom Piper’s three-storey, see-through domestic setting, one that seems to sum up the visible and unfinished nature of the family’s own lives.

Old man Tyrone was once a foremost actor. In his shadow, and after the death of her middle son, his wife took to morphine, while their two surviving sons – one also an actor – struggle to match up to expectations, especially since the youngest is (almost inconveniently as far as the family seem concerned) wracked with tuberculosis.

Like all families they talk over each other, wrestle with regret, anxieties, failure, intimations of mortality, and in their own case confront Catholic guilt. Mother lives on her nerves while shredding everyone else’s.

There are welcome flashes of melancholic humour, but there are also several audience members left in tears at the final curtain. Clear testament to the power of a story that has a haunting currency.

George Costigan as the father, Brid Ni Neachtain (Mary) and Lorn Macdonald and Sam Phillips (sons Edmund and James) give perfectly-gauged performances throughout, along with Dani Heron, as stroppy serving girl Cathleen. 

Reviewer: David Upton

Comments

Comment by David Cunningham

For all of the length of the play the production at HOME does not seem excessive. Much of this can be attributed to the artful pacing by director Dominic Hill. Despite the heavyweight subject matter and the claustrophobic setting the production never slides into melodrama. The opening scene is deceptive and gives the impression of a domestic drama with a family going through the type of squabbles that might affect any group. It is only in the second scene that the apprehension shared by the characters starts to become apparent and, by the time the level of animosity between the sons and their father emerges, the audience is hooked on the power of the play and no longer concerned about the length.

A range of techniques are employed with, in the early scenes, a naturalistic approach allowing the dialogue to realistically over-lap just as would occur in any family argument. The transparent walls of Tom Piper’s set allow the audience to glimpse, rather than just hear, Mary as she wanders like a Spice Zombie around the upper floors of the house. Tyrone and his sons desperately hoping that Mary will not leave her room brings out the horror of having to cope with a family member who has become an addict – the shameful feeling of hating not just the addiction but the addict herself.