Wednesday 3 April 2024

Long Day's Journey Into Night - Review

Wyndhams Theatre, London


Written by Eugene O'Neill
Directed by Jeremy Herrin

Brian Cox

Brian Cox heads an impressive cast in Eugene O’Neill’s grim take on early twentieth-century America. Widely considered the finest of O’Neill’s works and drawn from the writer’s autobiographical experiences, Cox plays James Tyson, a miserly washed-up actor in his sixties and the patriarch of a family wracked with alcoholism, morphine addiction and consumption. 

Cox may take the starriest billing but his fellow performers are equally magnificent. Patricia Clarkson is his wife Mary, with Daryl McCormack playing elder son James Jnr. and Laurie Kynaston as Tyson’s youngest child Edmund.

In a 3hr 20min show, each of the 4 characters is given ample room by O’Neill to explore and display the depths of their own personal tragedies. All of the quartet are profoundly flawed, with the evening proving a stunning combination of outstanding prose delivered to perfection. Cox may be the unlikeable linchpin of his family, but even he garners a modicum of sympathy as the full extent of his and his family’s misfortunes are laid bare. Clarkson and her take on Mary’s surrender to opiates offers perhaps the evening’s most poignant interpretation.

Set over the course of one long day, in the confines of the Tyson house located in a remote coastal Hicksville, Jeremy Herrin’s direction is masterful, enhanced by Lizzie Clachan’s simply designed set and Jack Knowles’ ingeniously effective lighting.

It is rare for such a magnum opus of a play to be performed by such a gifted company. The evening may be uncomfortable and unhappy, but it is also unmissable.

Booking until 8th June
Photo credit: Johan Persson

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