New revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night created for Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre

New revival of Long Day’s Journey Into Night created for Edinburgh's Lyceum Theatre

Eugene O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical work about addiction and family dysfunction

’It’s so painfully honest,’ says director Tony Cownie when asked about the key to the importance of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a new revival of which he’s created for the Lyceum. ‘It’s very interesting that O’Neill didn’t want the play to be produced in his lifetime as it was so personal to the experience of his family growing up. It’s one of the most important plays of the last century, the history speaks for itself.’

Having provided a legendary role for Sir Laurence Olivier in his last performance for the National Theatre, the tyrannical head of the family, James Tyrone, is one of the great parts. Set in the early 1900s, the play gives an account of one day in the life of the Irish-American Tyrone family, and the emotions which brew up in the cauldron of their various addictions to alcohol and morphine. Written in the 1940s and first staged in 1956, it’s one of the seminal works of American theatre and, says Cownie, ‘one of those plays that stays with you’. Certainly, it is a visceral, troubling play, with the family struggling with addictions, illness and frustration. Cownie remembers seeing it once in Dundee and again at the Dublin International Festival in 2004 with James Cromwell among the cast. ‘That was the uncut version of about four and a half hours,’ he says, ‘although ours is shorter.’ Other than that, he says, it’s a faithful version of a piece which requires absolutely no updating. ‘The themes within the play are universal and they resonate throughout human existence,’ he says. ‘The dependency on each other and how they blame each other for their own deficiencies, that’s a very human flaw. Also how addicted we are as people without really realising it, and how much we hide from ourselves.’

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 8 Feb

Long Day's Journey Into Night

Eugene O'Neill's 1957 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, a semi-autobiographical work about addiction and family dysfunction.

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