Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
In the gloom, the shadowy female figure at the top of the wooden stairs in Dominic Hill’s mighty revival of Eugene O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical dysfunctional splurge looks like some spectral figure trapped in the place that doomed her to oblivion. As perfectly poised as the figure appears, when the lights go up on Tom Piper’s grandiloquent but skeletal set, the figure may be revealed as a headless mannequin draped in a wedding dress, but as the next three hours prove, it is no less of a ghost.
As with Piper’s set, there is nothing solid in the lives of the Tyrones, O’Neill’s raging clan, led by ageing star actor James and his morphine-addicted bride Mary. Like them, their sons James Junior and a consumption-addled Edmund are tip-toeing their way through the lies and disappointments of their lives set to explode in the glare of a naked lightbulb and a foghorn that guides no-one home.
With an entire family on different drugs, everyone moves at different paces and occupies different self-absorbed spaces. As they howl at themselves and everything they’ve lost, any danger of reconciliation is lost in bursts of the most brutal truths clouded by terminal befuddlement.
This co-production between the Citizens and the Home venue in Manchester is delivered in stately fashion by a cast who move between emotional extremes, from the chirpy fripperies of Dani Heron’s Irish maid Cathleen, to the haunted anguish of Brid Ni Neachtain’s Mary and fragile pomp of George Costigan’s James. Inbetween, Sam Phillips and Lorn MacDonald tear chunks out of each other as James Junior and Edmund, spewing out litanies of hand-me-down angst with poetic abandon. Pulsed by the fractured languor of Claire McKenzie’s score, this is a show that aches with the pain of a dynasty in freefall.
The Herald, April 23rd 2018