Samuel John, a handsome figure, brought an overbearing, and sometimes depressive air to the stage – the burdened brother, bereft of love coming second place to his younger sibling. *Photo supplied
Samuel John, a handsome figure, brought an overbearing, and sometimes depressive air to the stage – the burdened brother, bereft of love coming second place to his younger sibling. *Photo supplied

For anyone who has experienced addiction either first hand or through a loved one, A Long Day’s Journey Into The Night will resonate powerfully.

It is clear, through the dialogue and actions of the players, that Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill was writing from experience in this most believable and accurate description. The devil is in the detail – a father padlocking the wine cellar, a son listening out for the creek of movement upstairs – perhaps his mother walking to the medicine cabinet... Selfishness, blame, self-pity and self-destruction, deception and denial – they are all there in full whack and the familiarity cuts deep.  

Set in 1912, Connecticut, it tells of an Irish-American family in crisis battling against themselves, each other and the vices that consume them.

Bermudian director Timothy Trimingham Lee has successfully delivered this classic play to a modern audience. While he decided to keep his production set in 1912 – it would have taken a significant rewrite to set it in modern times – he has tweaked the dialogue to make it snappy and accessible.

In the director’s own words, “theatre is not a museum – it is a living, breathing arena.’ In its nature, the play is timeless – dealing with family dynamics and the curse of addiction – and Lee’s dialogue helps us even further to relate.

The pace of the play has been kicked up a few gears going by accounts of the original and the young male actors bring much vigour and robustness to the production. Lee has them cavorting around the stage, play fighting, hopping onto furniture and collapsing in drunken heaps.

John Atterbury excelled in his role as the patriarch of the family – James Tyrone. He managed to be both lovable and detestable at once, providing love, support and hope for his wife while putting too much worth on the value of a dollar and possessing more loyalty to Ireland than to his loved ones.

He delivered a few stumbled lines at the start of the play but it could easily have been passed off for the forgetfulness of a slightly deteriorated mind (the character’s not the actor’s!)

It’s a shame there are not more performances – it usually takes a few turns for the actors to get comfortable in their roles and for all the work that has clearly gone into this production it’s a shame it can’t get more stage time here.

The youngest Edmund, played by Joe Jameson, gave a good performance – even if he did get a little over-excited during his poetic outbursts. His vitality and naivety alleviated the mood and injected humour.

Samuel John, a handsome figure, brought an overbearing, and sometimes depressive air to the stage – the burdened brother, bereft of love coming second place to his younger sibling.

The mother’s character, played by Joyce Springer, was extremely gentile and as such conveyed a crippling vulnerability. In the first half, her delivery was a little too quiet – sat a little further back from the centre of the auditorium I had to strain to hear her. In the second half she piped up while retaining the character’s vulnerability.

I’m not sure whether it was down to the directing or the acting, but she could have been more emotive in her delivery – at times the performance came across as a little monotonous. Having said that, this can happen to a person who has been so ravaged by life’s challenges.

Sound designer Rob Hart should have a special mention, the haunting call of the fog horns and bell tolls heightened the sense despair.

It may sound depressing, but for me, it’s more satisfying than the deluge of slap stick sit coms and canned laughter saturating much of the mainstream media. It reminds us we are human.

Long Day’s Journey Into The Night certainly lived up to its name – it lasted for over three hours and a handful in the auditorium didn’t make it to the end, sloping off early. Lee could have shortened it quite easily but decided not to. In its favour, the length allowed us to reach deep into the psyche of the characters and understand the circumstances that have brought them to where they are. They are extremely complex characters and deserving of the biographies they are given.

  • A Long Day’s Journey Into The Night will be staged for a second time on Sunday evening at The Earl Cameron Theatre, City Hall at 2:30pm. Tickets are available for $65 (adults) and $25 (students) from www.bdatix.bm or by visiting www.bermudafestival.bm
  • This production was especially commissioned by the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts