Review – Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Jan 23 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Intensely emotional

Paul Shelley as James Tyrone and Diana Kent as Mary Tyrone in the Royal Lyceum's 2014 production of Long Days Journey Into Night. Photo © Alan McCredie

Paul Shelley and Diana Kent. Photo © Alan McCredie

Royal Lyceum Theatre
Friday 17 Jan – Saturday 8 Feb 2014
Review by Hugh Simpson

Intense, disquieting and ultimately rewarding, the Lyceum’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night is worthy of very high praise.

Largely autobiographical and often considered O’Neill’s masterpiece (albeit a masterpiece which is more often admired than staged), the play deals with the unravelling of relationships in a dysfunctional family over the course of one day.

Dealing as it does with a family who express their feelings through addiction and recrimination, this could never be said to be an easy play to watch. However, this production is both impressive and satisfying for its audience. This is largely due to Tony Cownie’s intelligent and sensitive direction, allied to some judicious cuts to a text that can run to four and a half hours.

The light touch that is in evidence at times here adds a rhythm and emotional realism to the piece, meaning that any tendency towards melodrama is avoided. Instead the whole performance has an air of melancholic, brooding menace.

The production also benefits greatly from a uniformly high standard of performance. Paul Shelley is compelling and restrained as the alcoholic, miserly father James Tyrone, while Diana Kent’s evocation of years of pent-up sorrow and anger as his morphine addict wife Mary lends the character an unusual degree of dignity and pathos.

The peculiar, stark beauty of the play
Adam Best as Jamie Tyrone and Timothy N.Evers as Edmund Tyrone in the Royal Lyceum's 2014 production of Long Days Journey Into Night. Photo © Alan McCredie

Adam Best and Timothy N. Evers. Photo © Alan McCredie

Timothy N. Evers, who plays the younger son Edmund, (a character usually considered to represent O’Neill himself) displays a convincing mixture of stillness, poetry and anger as a man battling both alcohol and TB.

It is the poetry and symbolism embodied in this role which best illustrates the peculiar, stark beauty of the play; while O’Neill has often been described as the great American realist in the tradition of Ibsen or Chekhov, here it is an extremely heightened realism, recalling Greek tragedy and elevating the story to another plane entirely.

This is echoed by Janet Bird’s intriguing set design, which takes the basis of a naturalistic set and transforms it into something altogether grander, paradoxically suggestive both of infinite vistas and claustrophobic haunting.

At times the intensity of emotion on show threatens to overwhelm, particularly when the older son Jamie, magnificently played by Adam Best, gives full rein to his bitter, drunken frustration. Overall, however, there is an oddly transcendent quality to the experience.

There is no easy resolution to the raw emotion on show, but the reality of those emotions, added to the extremely high standard of acting and directing, make this a production that is highly recommended.

Running time 2 hours 50 mins.
Run ends Sat 8 February 2014
Tue-Sat 7.45pm; Wed, Sat matinees: 2.30pm.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AX

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