Tony Cownie’s enlightening production of Eugene O’Neill’s posthumous prizewinner depicts a family whose secrets cast a long shadow.
Set in 1912, Long Day’s Journey Into Night focuses on a single day in the lives of the Tyrone family in their fog-enshrouded Connecticut home by the sea. Mary (Diana Kent) and James (Paul Shelley) are reunited after Mary’s spell of absence, awkwardly refamiliarising themselves with each other as their sons James Jr (Adam Best) and Edmund (Timothy N.Evers) try to ignore the fact that everything is still far from normal.
As the day marches towards its conclusion, the fragility of this damaged family unit becomes ever more apparent as hidden secrets and concealed emotions are exposed, leading to a climax which is as dark as the inevitable night.
O’Neill’s acclaimed play is largely autobiographical, and depicts a family broken by addiction, failure, betrayal and illness. The piece shines a light into these cracks, revealing the frailty of the human condition with almost scientific precision. Cownie’s production lets this examination take its natural course, allowing the uniformly impressive cast’s interactions with each other to drive the narrative played out on Janet Bird’s effective oversized set. Tim Mascall’s lighting design echoes the title and theme of the play itself, subtly darkening throughout the piece until literally fading to darkness.
Although an unrelentingly powerful and well-staged production, Long Day’s Journey Into Night’s pace is almost forensic in its unfolding. And whilst nearly every action and line of dialogue is vital to the exposition, that pace may result in a journey which some may feel — at a shade under three hours — is just a little too long.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night runs at the Royal Lyceum Theatre until 8 Feb. Tickets and further information are available on the Lyceum website.