(seen at the afternoon performance on 17th February 2018).
On a weird IKEA / Perspex Rob Howell set, clearly built for a single moment
(ironically not visible from the "low side" stalls numbers in the house, no
matter, it isn't that impressive), Richard Eyre allows his cast to play at
individual acting speeds from the start. This removes from the text any need to
explain the fractionated family, but makes for a boring opening hour as the
words are gone through when we already know and got the point 50 minutes ago.
Still, it lays the foundations for a stellar performance from Lesley Manville
(Mary Tyrone) as addiction and disappointment dismantle her mind, and a
thoroughly un-nerving free-wheeler from Rory Keenan (James Tyrone Jr) as a son
with urges he feels no need to control, and no real reason to conform. Other son
Matthew Beard (Edmund Tyrone) is under a death-sentence, his mixture of
self-pity, resignation and frustration giving the actor an interesting battle to
watch. A note too for Jessica Regan (Cathleen) who handles her major scene as a
maid with an emotional depth outside of her assigned lines.
Jeremy Irons (James Tyrone) is the lead name, though. Actor playing actor,
and managing a very odd dichotomy. In the first half, a simple miser and bully,
in the second explaining everything and ripping through layers like a child at
its Christmas presents. Alternating between weak and strong, but always busy,
it's an individual take on the role for sure.
The whole moves along at a clip that belies the 3 and a half hour running
time, and if the structure and even subject matter of the play now seem actively
dated, it isn't that important. We get clarity and definition, if not actual
inspiration, in almost every scene.
No doubt at all that this is a modern classic, but this probably isn't a
classic modern production, concludes the monkey.