Although written in the early 1940’s, O’Neill (1888 -1953) stipulated that it shouldn’t be published until 25 years after his death – an instruction which his widow countermanded. It premiered in 1956 and won him a posthumous Pulitzer Prize.
Award-winning Jeremy Irons and Leslie Manville (recently nominated for an Oscar for Phantom Thread) reprise the roles of Irish Americans James and Mary Tyrone, married for 35 years and with a pair of grownup sons, who are both a source of constant worry. Rory Keenan’s louche James Jr has reluctantly followed his more talented father onto the stage but is only interested in booze, bars and whoring, and his younger brother Edmund (Matthew Beard) can’t shake off a persistent “summer cold” which neither he nor his parents want to acknowledge as something far more serious.
During the course of a single August day, the pretences they have built up crack and crumble – Manville’s nervy, restless Mary, only recently “cured” from a drug addiction which has blighted her life since childbirth, once again takes refuge in pain-numbing morphine, the long held resentments at the life she’s led as the wife of a penny-pinching actor spilling from her unchecked as the dope takes hold. Irons’ James shows the deep-seated fear of a man who has experienced extreme poverty in childhood – saving money (be it on a sanatorium for his son, a doctor for his spouse, or the lighting in the summer house which has never become a home) still takes priority over the welfare of the family he loves. And Jessica Regan adds a touch of comedy and common sense as their Irish maid Cathleen whose fondness for a tipple nowhere near matches that of the male Tyrones.
Wyndhams, Charing Cross Road WC2H 0DA
Tube: Leicester Square
Until 7th April 2018
Tickets £12.50 – £67.50 + Premium seats