Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill and directed by Tony Cownie has started a three week run, 17th Jan – 8th Feb, at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre. I saw last night’s performance and it’s a cracker.

For those who don’t know the play it’s a day in the lives of the Tyrone family. Early on the writer allows us to glimpse the men’s expectation of disaster in the way they study the matriarch, Mary. It’s no time at all before we realise she’s addicted to something and has been on a cure. The family, and the audience with them, are on tenterhooks. Will she stay clean?

The American accents are muted. No brash New Yorkers here. Sometimes that makes the actors a little difficult to hear. Diana Kent has a specially difficult role to play in Mary as the script contains long self-reflective passages of not-quite-nonsense. Pay attention. The clues are buried there.

The three men, father and two sons, all have their faults, and O’Neill has them linked and inter-linked so that no-one escapes the claustrophobic day with its returning sea-fog. It’s difficult to fault anyone. Timothy N. Evers, I thought made an incredibly convincing youth in the grip of a serious illness. He played well to the vulnerability and capacity to forgive a glimpse of immortality sometimes grants.

The set by Janet Bird is faithful to the O’Neill family cottage in which he set the play. It’s dominated by a central wooden stair that takes Mary out of sight, but never out of mind. The sound effects toward the end are potent,

The audience seemed stunned at the final curtain. The quality of the script, the quality of the acting and the horror of man’s self-destructive capacities have a way of doing that. We did appreciate it, Mr. Cownie. Thank you.

We all make mistakes, but truly folks, the sound of a mobile is so unwelcome. In a play like this one, where the language is virtually another character and is delivered quietly, it’s entirely so. Check your phone’s settings – better still, leave it at home.


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