Theatre Royal, Nottingham
Friday 9th March 2012.
‘Intense’ is certainly an apt word to describe Eugene O’Neill’s most autobiographical play. Set over one long Summer’s day, Long Day’s Journey into Night sees the disintegration of the Tyrone family –made up of three male alcoholics including the failed actor father James Tyrone and a mother who became addicted to morphine after a difficult birth.
After seeing David Suchet in All My Sons, he was the main reason I went to see this play. His James Tyrone exudes the utmost passion for his wife and the charisma of a once-great actor. This huge role certainly shows off his versatility as an actor, especially at moments where he suddenly switches from being inconsiderate to caring. The audience actually gasped when he lunged at Edmund (Tyrone’s youngest son) with ‘If you hadn’t been born, she’d never…’ followed by his swift ashamed retraction.
However, it is Laurie Metcalf’s performance of Mary Tyrone that you will be leaving the theatre talking about. Glazed eyes, slowly dishevelling hair, gentle rocking, and the way she falls into rambling monologues reminiscing on her past complete her subtle performance of a woman who’s given up.
There is a touch of comedy that comes from James Tyrone’s attention to saving money, but it only heightens the ultimate tragedy of the play and what makes it even more painful to watch is that it is based on O’Neill’s real family life. Furthermore, Lez Brotherston’s low-ceilinged set adds to the feeling of entrapment of the characters’ lives and to the entrapment of addiction.
Everything about this production is sublime. Even the way the curtain fell at the end. For a very naturalistic play, one swift and noisy fall of the tabs made for an abrupt and theatrical end. Its impact left the audience aghast, as if they had been cut off from the play.
I met Suchet afterwards and he said that the only role now that he really wants to play is Willy Loman...
Long Day’s Journey into Night toured and then played at London’s Apollo Theatre until 18th August.