The 2013 Olivier Award-winning revival of Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, Long Day’s Journey into the Night, starring David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf was captured by Digital Theatre during its London run.
The production opened at the Apollo Theatre in April 2012.
The play takes place on a single day in August, from around 8:30 a.m. to midnight. The setting is the seaside Connecticut home of the Tyrones' Monte Cristo Cottage. the story is a compelling family drama between James Tyrone (David Suchet), Mary Tyrone (Laurie Metcalf) and their sons, Jamie (Trevor White) and Edmund (Kyle Soller) during a long summer’s day.
The four main characters are the semi-autobiographical representations of O'Neill himself, his older brother, and their parents.
This play portrays a family in a ferociously negative light as the parents and two sons express accusations, blame, and resentments – qualities which are often paired with pathetic and self-defeating attempts at affection, encouragement, tenderness, and yearnings for things to be otherwise. The pain of this family is made worse by their depth of self-understanding and self-analysis, combined with a brutal honesty, as they see it, and an ability to boldly express themselves. The story deals with the mother's addiction to morphine, the family's addiction to whiskey, the father's miserliness, the older brother's licentiousness, and younger brother's illness.
The play, set in 1912, revolves around James Tyrone (Suchet), Mary Tyrone (Metcalf) and their sons, Jamie (White) and Edmund (Kyle Soller) during a long summer's day. Originally premiered in 1956 in Stockholm, Sweden, before debuting on Broadway at the old Helen Hayes Theatre (not the one currently bearing that name) later that year and coming to the West End in 1958. It was most recently revived on Broadway in 2003 in a production that starred Brian Dennehy, Vanessa Redgrave and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and was last seen in a different production in the West End in 2000 with Jessica Lange, Charles Dance and Paul Rudd.
David Suchet was last seen in the West End in All My Sons, also at the Apollo. Other recent West End appearances include The Last Confession at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket and Man and Boy at the Duchess Theatre. His extensive stage credits also include appearances at the National and with the RSC. On TV, he is best known for playing the title role in the series ‘Poirot.’
Laurie Metcalf was last seen on the London stage at the National Theatre in All My Sons in 2001, and on Broadway in the short-lived revival of Neil Simon's Brighton Beach Memoirs in 2009. She is best known for playing Jackie Harris on TV's "Roseanne," for which she is a three-time Emmy Award winner. Other TV roles include "The Big Bang Theory," "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy." Film credits include the voice of Andy's Mum throughout Pixar's "Toy Story" trilogy as well as appearances in "Scream 2" and "Desperately Seeking Susan."
Page has directed extensively in the West End and on Broadway, including productions of Design for Living (Old Vic), Waiting for Godot (Broadway) and A Doll's House (London and Broadway). Recent screen credits include "My Zinc Bed" with Uma Thurman and Jonathan Pryce. He also directed the critically acclaimed 1990s period drama "Middlemarch" for the BBC.
‘At the end of this superb production of Eugene O’Neill’s harrowing autobiographical play, I barely had the strength to get out of my seat. The dramatic impact is shattering. The raw pain, passion and even the occasional clumsiness of the writing are testament to a work of heroic honesty.
O’Neill himself described it as being “written in tears and blood”. His wife said he was “tortured by the experience”, emerging from his study at the end of each day of writing “gaunt and sometimes weeping”.
The play has been known to run for as long as four-and-a-half hours, a long journey indeed. In this superbly judged and wonderfully acted production, which finds flickers of humour in the darkness as well as aching passages of desperate love, the director Anthony Page brings it in at under three hours, thanks to the fluency of the playing and some judicious cutting.
As the title suggests, the play follows a single day in the life of the Tyrone family in their summer home in 1912, with the dramatist looking back on his own mother, father and older brother, all of them dead when he wrote it between 1939 and 1941, as well as his own younger self.
It is a family racked by addiction, despair and festering guilt, but in the opening act O’Neill offers a heart-wrenching glimpse of hope. After years addicted to morphine, first prescribed to her when she gave birth to Edmund – O’Neill’s portrait of himself as a young man – the mother, Mary, appears to have undergone a successful cure. Her actor husband James is palpably proud of her, and the two sons are less juiced up than usual. The production brilliantly captures the tension of characters walking on eggshells around each other, fearful that this brief moment of happiness will be short-lived.
As indeed it is. Confronted by the knowledge that her younger son has TB, Mary retreats again into a comforting cloud of opiates and childhood memories. The two boys get roaring drunk, and James, too, hits the bottle hard, lamenting his squandered talents as an actor.
As the anguished, tight-fisted father, David Suchet gives a performance of high-definition intensity, suddenly seeming physically diminished as expansive hope gives way to bitter despair. His eyes glow with love at one moment, spark with fury the next. And the passage in which he describes his dirt-poor childhood, which in part, at least, explains the meanness with money that possibly caused his wife’s addiction, and certainly explains his sell-out career, is overpoweringly moving.
The American actress Laurie Metcalf is equally remarkable as his wife, floating around the stage like a distracted ghost as she escapes her pain with hard drugs and tender memories that seem more real to her than the present. Meanwhile, Kyle Soller movingly captures the passion, fear and vulnerability of the young playwright, while Trevor White brings a terrifying, self-loathing viciousness to his brother, Jamie.
This is a masterly production of a masterpiece. It isn’t easy to sit through, but the dramatic rewards are enormous.’
‘Why, however often we see it, do we continue to find Eugene O'Neill's family drama so moving? Partly because the play draws so closely on the author's own experience. Watching Anthony Page's fine revival, which boasts glowing performances by David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf, another thought struck me: what also grips us is the tension between O'Neill's tight classical structure and the surging contradictions of family life. ‘
‘Suchet deploys a brilliant mastery of the text's crazy pendulum-swings from affability to rage, kidding himself that his beloved wife is cured of addiction, or ranting about his sons not knowing 'the value of a dollar and the fear of the poorhouse' before abruptly lavishing drink money on them … The same erratic mood afflicts his sons, particularly the invalidish, spiritual Edmund, wonderfully played by Kyle Soller ... Perhaps the most brilliant of all is Laurie Metcalf as the wife and mother who, during a day that begins in placid sunshine, returns to the drug. At first in ladylike denial about her 'medicine', she declines into delusion, paranoia, pathos, and unwelcome bursts of frankness. Yet all the time her underlying humanity and historic griefs show through. Anthony Page, the director, did well to keep in far more of her lines intact than other adaptations: she, as much as Suchet, is the core of this remarkable evening.’
‘This superb revival of Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece has everything you could ask for in a drama: powerhouse performances, delicacy, great writing – and a tragic personal backstory ... David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf... are exceptional as the father and mother, James and Mary Tyrone. Suchet, his head held high and his voice full of Irish-American gravel, gives a profoundly sympathetic portrait based explicitly on O'Neill's father James ... Suchet shows the actor's thespian dignity and his generous tenderness for his wife ... Metcalf, by contrast, gives a completely unsentimental portrayal of Mary (which is) unsparing: her grace, elegance and faded beauty make it even more horrible when she pours out sweet poison under the influence of the drug, berating her sons for being born and dragging them down into her fog... This beautifully acted revival sends you into the night elated, with the sense of something understood.’
‘Anyone who admires great acting will savour the performances of David Suchet and Laurie Metcalf in this potent revival of Eugene O’Neill’s shattering tragedy.
Suchet is Irish-born patriarch James Tyrone, once a distinguished actor in his adopted America and now a rather grand has-been. Frequently dueling with his two sons Jamie and Edmund, he’s both soldierly and pathetic. It’s a performance full of telling detail; even the way Suchet uses a light switch or attends to a broken shoelace feels pregnant with significance.
James is often expansive in his gestures. But he can be miserly, as well as torn between the need to preserve his dignity and show how much he cares about his ailing wife Mary. She is portrayed with stunning conviction by Metcalf, known to British audiences mainly for her appearances in Desperate Housewives and Roseanne. Here she conveys with delicate precision yet also humanity and passion the travails of a woman long ago scarred by the loss of a child.
Over the course of a single day in August 1912, the family’s sorrows and fragile ambitions are set before us. Punctuated by the mournful sound of a foghorn, the action is characterized by a steadily growing density. Matters that at first seem straightforward, even if ugly, turn out to be haunted by trauma and what O’Neill called ‘hopeless hope’.
This autobiographical piece, written in 1940 but not performed until 1956 (by which time O’Neill was dead), is closely concerned with addiction. The men are all hardened drinkers, yet they tend to be furtive and look accusingly at anyone who lapses into self-indulgence. And Mary, who repeatedly drifts back into the mists of the past, is locked in a battle of her own – with morphine.
In Anthony Page’s production, which features an excellent design by Lez Brotherston, the moments of fervent confrontation are skillfully realised. So are the bursts of comedy. Besides the two leads there’s compelling work from Trevor White as Jamie, a loveless cynic, and from rising star Kyle Soller, who suggests the hollow exhaustion of the sickly Edmund while also imbuing him with just the right mix of dreaminess, charm and anger.
The result is moving. It’s about as far away as you can imagine from a perky night out in the West End, but deeply courageous in its account of O’Neill’s anguished vision.’