(Alfred Hickling’s article appeared in the Guardian, 10/16.)
Under David Thacker's tenure, the Octagon has become the home of heavyweight American drama. Yet you suspect that his productions of Miller, Williams and Albee were merely gateway drugs that would sooner or later lead towards the hard stuff: Eugene O'Neill's masterful study of sickness and addiction, which was so closely based on his own family that he forbade any performance until 25
years after his death.
Set over a single day in summer 1912, O'Neill presents a fleeting moment of togetherness for the Irish American Tyrone family, between rehab spells and sanatorium visits. Mother Mary has just returned from a course of treatment for morphine addiction; youngest son Edmund has tuberculosis and is headed the other way. Father James, a fading theatrical idol, and elder son James Jr, are so wedded to the bottle as to be beyond saving.