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Lesley Manville and Jeremy Irons lead a masterclass of acting in their respective reprisals of Mary and James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which officially opened in the West End’s Wyndham’s Theatre last night, two years after its initial staging at the Bristol Old Vic.
Set in the Tyrone’s summer home in 1912, we delve into a day in the life of James (Irons), Mary (Manville) and their two sons, Edmund and Jamie. Presented on an impressive yet oddly modern stage, contradicted by old fashioned furniture, everything is visually bright and upbeat as a fairly typical family setting is unveiled before us.
Yet there’s an unsettling air as Mary faffs and babbles on, to the annoyance of her husband and boys, and the lighting gradually dims throughout the show. As fog draws in, an overcasting shadow darkens both the stage and the mood, as each of the characters’ vices are revealed and addressed head on.
It’s appropriate that on 6 February, marking 100 years since the suffrage movement, Lesley Manville’s performance shines bright. Her portrayal of Mary, who tormented by her loneliness, guilt and lost dreams, has developed an addiction to morphine, is haunting.
Jeremy Irons plays the role of a once-great-actor-turned-cheapskate-property-collector brilliantly, providing a perfect balance of James’ love and contempt towards Mary. Rory Keenan as Jamie and Matthew Beard as Edmund feel right at home as they summon up inspiration from their more experienced fellow actors, and Jessica Regan as the family’s help provides light relief with perfectly executed wit, in a play that otherwise weighs extremely heavy.
In their five star review of Eugene O’Neill’s masterpiece, directed in the West End by Richard Eyre, WhatsOnStage calls the Academy Award nominated Lesley Manville’s turn “a performance of detailed genius”. Agreeing with the brilliance of the play, London Theatreland call Long Day’s Journey Into Night “a world class production”.
Describing the play’s atmosphere, Timeout claim the “troubled figures are resurrected with both unsparing naturalism and just enough tenderness to make their flaws all the more painful.”
The Times commend “how much fury is wrapped in so much fondness”.
In their four star review, the Evening Standard conclude the play has “naked emotional power that’s genuinely absorbing”.
See more photos from Long Day’s Journey Into Night in our gallery.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night is running now at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre. Tickets are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.
Review by Tom Cummins