5 March 2012

Long Day's Journey into Night at Richmond Theatre

I had not been to Richmond Theatre theatre for a couple of years or so and it took something unmissable to get me back. And this was unmissable.

It became unmissable when I was on my way to the Old Vic Tunnels to see Eugene O'Neill's Sea Plays and I saw the adverts for Long Day's Journey into Night plastered all over the ticket barriers at Richmond Station.

The hint was duly taken and the tickets bought. This is pre-West End and in preview yet it still cost just over £40 for a decent seat (front row of the Grand Circle). That's probably why I do not go there very often.

On the plus side, the theatre is pretty enough (not that I care what theatres look like from the outside) and is well positioned on the Little Green just off the town centre and close to the station.

Inside it is much as you would expect, old, dowdy and lacking in facilities.

Luckily these facilities do include a small bar by the Grand Circle.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that your first check-in to the theatre on FourSquare gets you a free drink.

Waiting in the bar I try to assess the audience and decide that they are Daily Mail readers whereas a few days earlier the Young Vic was decidedly Guardian, and younger.

Soon the seven o'clock bell tolls and we are summoned in to the theatre. This looks to be full, which I always like to see.

Long Day's Journey into Night takes us in to the Connecticut home of the Tyrones, a late middle-aged couple and there two grown-up sons.

The scene is normal enough but we soon learn that there are deep issues in the family that are not helped by their addictions to drink (three of them), women (two) and drugs (one).

We follow the Tyrones for one day from just after breakfast until early the following morning. In between those two times there is a lot of talk, conversation, argument, discussion, reflection and drinking.

The mood ebbs and flows with some light moments that bring laughter from the audience and many more dark moments where we learn more about the troubles within the family. These include, in no particular order, jealously, consumption, misspent opportunities and deceit.

There is love there too and that is one of the things that keeps the family together.

The characters are never still. They come and go from the one room of the house that we can see and when in it they are rarely still. They are animated, passionate and restless but never busy. Some work does get done but it is either done by other people or happens off stage. The nervous energy in their perpetual motion heightens the tension.

Having praised the set and the direction it only remains to praise everything else about the play because it is fantastic.

The acting is excellent. David Suchet is the big name draw and lives up to the billing but this is far from a one-man show. All four of the main actors are superb and totally believable.I especially liked the subtlety slightly slurred behaviour of the mother after her first touch of drugs that day.

Long Day's Journey into Night is seen as Eugene O'Neill's master-work. This production shows why.

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