Royal National Theatre/Bristol Old Vic production ofA [-oiig [)uy's Journey Into Night. (iiro'l‘heatre
in Para Pam. plus Mandela Theatre Company.
LISTINGS: THEATRE 49 CABARET 50 DANCE 50
Hard day’s night
As the Royal National Theatre makes its second visit to Scotland in less than a month. Mark Fisher goes on a long days journey with Prunella Scales and Timothy West.
lt‘s Iiugene ()'.\'eill time in (ilasgow. Only a couple of weeks before the ('itizens‘ Theatre ptits (ilenda Jackson through the ()resteian throes of .l/ouriiiiig Becomes [fleet/u. the Royal National Theatre. in collaboration with the Bristol Old Vic. is bringing Long [)tiy's Journey [NIH .Vig/ii. the American writers intense atitobiographical study ofa family at breaking point. to the Theatre Royal.
At the helm ofthe production is the offstage husband—and-wife team of l’runella Scales and Timothy West. a considerably more stable couple than their stage counterparts. the morphinc-addicted .‘ylary Tyrone and her failed actor husband James. The play. which was produced for the first time in 105(1. three years after ()‘Neill‘s death. takes us through a single day when family tensions. secrets and obsessions come to a head. As the day ploughs on. the parents and two sons -— one a hard-drinking hedonist. the other a poet with tuberculosis — are forced to face tip to the uncomfortable truth
its: i ‘ j” Timothy West and Prunella Scales
about each other.
Scales and West are sitting iii the busy actors bar at the Royal \atii Ill.ll lheatre at the ertd ofa heay'y week‘s rehearsal. Surprisingly . the two argue that being married makes little difference to their on stage relationship. '\\'e could be arty two actors.‘ says Scales with no hint of the brashness she came to epitomise as Sybil l’awlty'. ‘lf'l'im was a person l'd ney'er worked w itli before. like the rest of the cast are. there would be that social unease for the first w cek or two in rehearsal. which sometimes is stimulating and sometimes is a barrier. But the fact that w e're rttarried is no help. except that we know each other quite yy'cll.‘
Recognising the great demands of a play which slowly t'ey'eals layer after hidden layer about each character. plunging tis ey'er' deeper into their etnotional liy‘cs. Scales and West are nonetheless enjoying the challenge. "That‘s the ioy' of the theatre.‘ says Scales. 'l wouldn‘t accept this part on teley'ision. [wouldn‘t accept just one
performance after a four-week rehearsal. I‘m sure this production will be worth seeing twice or men three times. ldon‘t think you could fail to learn more about it by ptittirig it in front of successiy'e audiencesf
"The richness and the emotional density of the play is tiringf adds \Vest. ‘because you can't skate oy'er a line and wait until you can realign your thoughts to the next bit which you really know about. All the tinte. you’re receiy'ing influences from all oy'er the place.’ To illustrate her husband's poirtt. Scales recalls today ‘s rehearsal. ‘liy'cry‘ time we ran a scene.‘ she explains. ‘each actor talked about it from his characters point of View and you realise that you could miss a whole area even w hen you‘re getting on citiitewell.‘
But for all its unrelenting intensity . [one /)(1\ s Journey Iriio .Vig/i! ay'oids the nihilistic despair that its grim scenario might suggest. West and Scales attribute this to ()‘Neill's irony . humour and humanity. ‘lt's a Very compassionate play f says West. ‘The four members of the family are trapped. btit they are there. wanting to loy e and be loved by" each other. On their own. they'd probably be worse. They ar'c all y cry inter-dependent people. And when constant sniping is the natural Vocabulary of a relationship. it does yery' quickly allow itself to be funny. The audience cart take a certain amount of delight in the way the punches are tleliy'ei‘cd and ay'oided.~
Scales also takes solace in the fact that history pairtts a brighter picture than ( )Neill. w ho slltiyss himself at death's door in a less than sympathetic self-portrait. ‘The only thingyoti cart say in this desperately painful play'.‘ she says. ‘is that at the end of it. one amazing play'w right and l’ulit/er prize-winneremerged.‘
Long [)in 's Journey Into Night ix (1/ Hieiio'e Royal. Glasgow; .lIririJ."~Siir.i‘/) i/iir.
V known Republican sympathisers—so 20 M30 people were assassinated.‘ y, Deliberate collusion orsimply a spy Ag A maintaininghiscredibility?‘Partoi '~' ' . I thlscredlblllty.‘0'Brien continues. 1 ~
In Northern lrelandthe distinction between iriend and toe lsn'talways clear cut. Take tor Instance the story at Brian Nelson on which Giro Theatre's Para/Para is based. ‘Nelson was a soldier,‘ explains author/director James O'Brien, ‘who was given orders to inliltrate a Protestant paramilitary group astheirintelligence organiser. As a consequence, he was providing them with classitied inlormation about
‘was buying arms from South Africa for the paramilitaries.Thiswas sanctioned byacablnetministerwho‘s asyetunnamed.‘ O'Brienis second-generationlrish. broughtuplnBlrmingham,anda prolillc playwright—27playstodate. Para/Para is the sixth part of his ongoing Irish Dialogue. and receives its premiere in Edinburgh. He‘s critical olaudiences here.comparingthemto * thosein Dublin—‘iitheythinkit‘s political, they‘ll avoid it‘—but is also aware that lor any audience. a theatre purelyotideas can be uninspiring.
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Describing Giro‘s style as ‘abstract, surreal. anarchic and agressive‘, he enthuses about what he calls ‘the deconstruction oi the classic text’. Here. this involves setting next to his own script musical borrowings, trom Irish Republican ballads to Wagner,
and excerpts from works about other ; types oi political repression. such as
" .- "a: Koestler‘s Darkness AtNoon and Kalka'slnthe PenalColony.Hisaimis.
.- ' he says,‘tocompileandre-create
imagesso peoplecanreassessthem "' and look atthem alresh'.
lllnconversationD‘Brien'svoluble energythreatensto run awaywith his ideas,whatdoes come acrossisa commitmentto basic humanrightsand aneedtotakeastandwhentheyiace erosion. ‘I believe the rule of law matters,‘ he concludes. ‘lt‘s a point of extremeimportancethatwhenthese transgressions occur. someone says “no".‘(Ken Cockburn) Para/Para. Richard Demarco Gallery. Edinburgh, Tue 2—Sat 6 Apr. Production might be rescheduled because of illness. Please confirm details on 556 2160.
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The List 22 March 4 April l‘N] 47