Published On: Thu, Apr 4th, 2024
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Long Day’s Journey Into Night review – Brian Cox shines in his return to the stage | Theatre | Entertainment

The big pull here is Brian Cox. Fresh from his role as Logan Roy in Succession, the original Hannibal Lecktor (yes!) returns to the stage for the first time in ten years.

As Eugene O’Neill’s monstrous paterfamilias James Tyrone, he is a shoo-in.

O’Neill’s searing autobiographical masterpiece was never intended for performance but rather to be read 25 years after his death.

Sorry, Eugene, but you can’t keep a great play down.

Set during one day and night in 1912 in the summer house of the Tyrone family, it is a shattering portrait of a family held together by toxic secrets and bottled deception: the family that denies together, stays together.

Tyrone Sr. is an actor who sold his artistry for Mammon. There is no greater burden than a great potential and James Tyrone was considered the greatest classical actor of his generation until acquiring the rights to The Count of Monte Cristo which was his ticket to commercial success but ruined his career.

His pathological fear of poverty has turned him into a Scrooge-like skinflint and sequestered in the only place they can call ‘home’, he and his two messed up sons spend their time drinking, whoring and attempting to deal with their self-destructing mother whose addiction comes in a needle rather than a bottle.

At three and a half hours it’s a long haul but Jeremy Herrin’s clean, uncluttered production is constantly engaging. Cox is a mesmerising presence although it’s a game of two halves at the moment.

The one-note bluster of the first act fails to convey Tyrone’s wheedling self pity; over compensating for his shaky grip on the lines, he doesn’t find his feet until the second half, especially in the extended monologue with his youngest son, Edmund, diagnosed with consumption.

Until then all eyes are on Patricia Clarkson as Mary Tyrone who delivers a forensically detailed performance of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

She drifts through her scenes like a wraith and the sudden switches from doting mother to spitting cobra as the morphine kicks in are scarily authentic.

Ably supported by Daryl McCormack and Laurie Kynaston as sons Jamie & Edmond and a delicious turn by Louisa Harland as the maid Cathleen, it is a sturdy production of a drop dead masterpiece.

A long but rewarding night in the theatre.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night is playing at Wyndham’s Theatre until June 8

Tickets: 0344 482 5151

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