Families, who’d ‘ave ’em?
I think all of us, in on sense or another.
The play is a co-production between HOME and Glasgow Citizens. Their last, Endgame, I was also fortunate to see, and too was directed by Citz Artistic Director, Dominic Hill:
Back to Long Day’s Journey into Night, classic of American theatres, the 3 hour production introduces the audience to the Tyrone family, taking them from breakfast through until evening, in some of the most highly charged scenes I’ve ever seen on stage.
An autobiographical account, Eugene O’Neill had so much personal investment in the story, that he didn’t intend for it to be performed in his own lifetime.
Give the scenes I bore witness to at HOME, what was a powerful but difficult watch for a bystander, so to speak, to see what must have been an explosive childhood played out again on stage, must be too much to bear.
Despite this, performed it was in 1956, going on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a Tony Award for Best Play. And from the story and words alone, I can see why.
All players I watched on stage more than matched the material and gave a masterclass in how to move an audience to the point of breaking point where at one stage, I wanted to rush up on stage. I’m dramatic, but not that dramatic during the normal course of business, you understand.
Set in 1912 Connecticut, the Tyrone Family, headed up by father James (George Costigan), provide the impression for probably a good five minutes that all is well – they are just a normal family, living a normal life.
To paraphrase Prince Charles,
whatever that means
(Incidentally I write this hours after a certain Harry married Meghan – another family who bring the drama – perhaps rivalling that of the Tyrones? Apologies – I promise not to let this event have any further influence on this piece of writing, either consciously or hopefully subconsciously).
I Di gress.
However, it is soon apparent that matters are playing out in the wake of a recently resolved upset concerning the mother, Mary (Brid Ni Neachtain). She’s eating again, and her husband joyously and sincerely happily declares that she’s getting fat, caused titters throughout the audience (as the millenials might say…
Seeds are soon sown that the youngest son, based on O’Neill himself, Edmund (Lorn Macdonald) may be gravely unwell,
and the scene is soon set and the questions posed for the audience:
- What happened to Mary?
- What is wrong with Edmund?
- What dynamic does eldest son, James jr, (Sam Phillips), bring to the table – tensions with both his brother and father already showing their colours.
The company is completed by the brilliantly sharp Irish housemaid Cathleen (Dani Heron), who brings moments of mirth much welcome at times, but not out of place.
Secrets unravel, truths are told and faced and the story becomes the ultimate case study in how thin the line between love and hate can be.
The performances both emotionally and physically were astounding. Just when you think all players have given all they can give, their stories told, they again enter the arena to go one more round (in some scenes, quite literally).
This production of Long Day’s Journey into Night left this theatre-goer and plus 1 feeling exhausted, tense, emotional, anxious and indeed feeling like one of the family.
There’s one more adjective; privileged.
One final note.
I thought ‘e were great
(Forgive me, I couldn’t have gone the whole review without a reference to Rita, Sue and Bob Too, try as I might).
On at HOME until Saturday 26 May, you have a week’s opportunity to experience for yourself this classic play and wonderful production.
Production photography credit: Tim Morozzo