Long Day’s Journey into Night – review

“Long Day’s Journey into Night” has come home. The first UK production of this play was at Edinburgh’s Lyceum Theatre on September 8th 1958 as part of that year’s Festival, with the young Alan Bates in the role of Edmund. Now, 55 years later it is back at the same theatre, with Timothy N. Evers, a recent graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in the same role.

Hopefully Evers will go on to emulate the success of Alan Bates. He certainly does a fine job as Edmund, younger son of the Tyrones, plagued by consumption and an uncertain future. This quasi-autobiographical play was a written “in tears and blood” by Eugene O’Neill, and its deeply personal themes meant that O’Neill stipulated it should not be published until 25 years after his death. As he died in 1953, this means it should have been premiered in 1998, and would have been aired to a very different world from the 1956 premiere that was allowed by his widow. The following year, in 1957, the play won a Pulitzer Prize.

It is interesting to speculate if this would have happened for the millenium Pulitzer. I would hazard a guess and say not, for in spite of its intense harrowing look at unhappy family dynamics, there is something a little too highly strung about the writing, the language, to completely engage the heart and soul of a modern audience. The fact that the original play lasted for over 4 hours is another factor difficult to take in our present day theatre, and in this Lyceum production the running time is just short of 3 hours, a wise decision on the part of director Tony Cownie. Enough, I would say, to take of the unhappy mix that is the Tyrone family.

The performances are impeccable – Diana Kent the charming but unfocused Mary, lost in her morphine memories to the frustrations and unhappiness of every day; Tyrone seeking more and more refuge in alcohol to escape from the disappointing grind of his acting life, instead of the great career he had once hoped for. Only James (Adam Best) might have a future, but at 35 his hopes of youthful success are fading fast. These are all disappointed people, and the misery is palpable. It’s an intense piece of theatre, challenging and uncomfortable, classically Greek in its form and scope. There is, however, no catharsis for the Tyrones or the audience.


DATES: 17 January – 8 February 2014
EVENINGS Tuesday- Saturday, 7.45pm £14- £27.50
MATINEES Wednesdays and Saturdays, 2.30pm £12 – £22

Recommended for ages 12+

Booking: 0131 248 4848 or online at www.lyceum.org.uk/longdaysjourney

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