Play spoke volumes about its author

Brian Protheroe as James Tyrone Snr and Margot Leicester as Mary Tyrone.  Photo: Ian Tilton
Brian Protheroe as James Tyrone Snr and Margot Leicester as Mary Tyrone. Photo: Ian Tilton

Eugene O’Neill’s most celebrated drama, “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, is one of the most iconic plays of American theatre and it is long! (Three hours and 15 minutes including a 20-minute interval).

Eugene O’Neill’s most celebrated drama, “A Long Day’s Journey Into Night”, is one of the most iconic plays of American theatre and it is long! (Three hours and 15 minutes including a 20-minute interval).

Brian Protheroe as James Tyrone Snr.  Photo: Ian Tilton

Brian Protheroe as James Tyrone Snr. Photo: Ian Tilton

It traces a day in the life of a dysfunctional family based largely on O’Neil’s own. Written in 1941-42, the action is set in approximately 1912, (the year in which O’Neill attempted suicide).

James Tyrone Senior (Brian Protheroe) is an ageing actor who has sacrificed much of his talent to keep producing a profitable play because he is terrified of penury and this influences his whole life. His eldest son Jamie (Keiron Hill) is a drunkard and womaniser. His younger son Edmund (Mawgan Gyle) is based on O’Neil himself.

Edmund is sensitive and facing the problems of his diagnosis with TB and what this will entail. The central character is their mother Mary (Margot Leicester) who can never forget the death of another son, Eugene, and after which the doctors prescribed morphine, to which she has become addicted.

I was reminded of the Octagon’s recent production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”, a semi-autobiographical play written around the same time and which also starred Margot Leicester. She is cornering the market in fragile American heroines, having also played in Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”.

This is a dramatic and well designed production. My only slight quibble is that because of the American accents, (although I’ve just spent a fortnight with two American ladies) and the speed of many of the speeches, I didn’t always catch everything.

The Octagon’s Christmas production will be Robin Hood by writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, directed by Elizabeth Newman. I am looking forward to it because the Octagon’s interpretation of such tales has always been intriguing and well worth seeing.

Box office: 01204 520661 Website: www.octagonbolton.co.uk