Desire Under The Elms
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 25 Oct–Sat 17 Nov
According to Jeremy Raison, artistic director of the Citz, theatre is about conveying ideas through stories. ‘I think now there’s a need for great stories and to see huge passion shown on a stage, which is what differentiates it from television or film.’ Raison describes Eugene O’Neill’s classic Desire Under the Elms as ‘one such tale of extraordinary passion’.
‘It’s essentially a love triangle about a much older father who brings back an unexpectedly young wife but the youngest of his three sons falls for her,’ Raison explains. ‘Set specifically in the 1850s, the older brothers pursue the Californian gold rush so it’s a time in American history where the American dream was possible.’
An long-term admirer of O’Neill’s work, Raison captures the ideas behind the play. ‘A lot of O’Neill’s writing focused on the corruption of the American dream. They’re in a country with endless resources and yet greed prevails and this play is very much about greed, possession and property.
O’Neill is now widely recognised as one of America’s greatest playwrights having won four Pulitzers and one Nobel prize. Raison explains why his plays are so appealing: ‘There’s a direct line from O’Neill through to Tennessee Williams – he really was the founder of American drama. He believed in transcendence through tragedy, so although the stories themselves are bleak, they’re strangely uplifting.’