I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
In 2016 ,HOME staged Ghosts - Henrik Ibsen's play about the actions of the past haunting the present.
There are many mentions of ghosts in HOME's production of another classic drama. This time, the world of the play is mid-twentieth century America, rather than nineteenth-century Norway.
Long Day's Journey into Night, had its world premiere in Stockholm in 1956. Due to the autobiographical elements in the story, Eugene O'Neill had a sealed copy of the manuscript placed in the document vault of publisher Random House, instructing that it not be published until 25 years after his death. The setting, a summer home in Connecticut, corresponds to O'Neill's family home.
:George Costigan (James Tyrone) and Bríd Ní Neachtain (Mary Cavan Tyrone). Photo by Tim Morozzo
James Tyrone (George Costigan) is an actor and property owner. He is the father to two adult sons - Jamie (Sam Phillips) and Edmund (Lorn Macdonald).
It's a marathon role for George Costigan, as it is for the other actors. The production last three hours and fifteen minutes, including one interval.
George Costigan negotiates the alternating tenderness and rage of James Tyrone with aplomb. Bríd Ní Neachtain plays his wife with the fidgety restlessness of a mother who cannot admit to herself that Edmund - who she cradles like a baby - has a more serious condition than a mere "summer cold."
Bríd Ní Neachtain (Mary Cavan Tyrone) and Lorn Macdonald (Edmund Tyrone) Photo by Tim Morozzo
This is not a play in which familial conflict simmers until it eventually ignites into an explosive finale. Rather, the conflict boils over continually in the play, like an over-active volcano. Each family member attempts to unburden part of their own share of guilt by accusing the other of being the cause of all the trouble.
Edmund says during one argument with his father: "We don't seem to be able to avoid unpleasant topics." It is hard to disagree with him. Bringing peace and reconciliation to this household would be an impossible task for the best family mediator.
Like any great playwright, O'Neill ensures that our sympathies shift from one character to another, as each reveals a little more about their backstory.
Sam Phillips (James Tyrone Jr), Lorn Macdonald (Edmund Tyrone), Bríd Ní Neachtain (Mary Cavan Tyrone), and George Costigan (James Tyrone). Photo by Tim Morozzo
This continual strife makes the play easier to admire than to enjoy. Each scene reaches a crescendo just before our patience and sympathy runs out.
There is occasional light relief when the angst reaches tipping point. Dani Heron raises laughs with her tipsy turn as Cathleen, the servant, who shares the whisky bottle with Mary when the 'boys' are out.
The poetry in the play brings light to the darkness of the encroaching night. Shakespeare is quoted frequently but Edmund is partial to reciting Baudelaire's verse, much to his father's displeasure.
There is also much imagery and rhythm in O'Neill's dialogue itself. The four main actors, under the direction of Dominic Hill, work together like a musical quartet - as tuned into each other's performances as they are to their own.
The set design allows us to see what is going on behind the main space. I was worried that the wooden staircase might collapse but it proved far more robust than the welfare of the Tyrone family.