Monday, 28 October 2013
In Arthur Miller's 'All my sons' (at the Royal Exchange, Manchester), there is a very strong sense of fate (Fate!) playing with the pretensions to freedom of the characters' actions now. It verges on a pastiche of a Greek tragedy. The past even sends a letter to the present day to confound an attempt by one character (and perhaps we almost wish it too) to wriggle out of what has been previously set up.
In Eugene O'Nealls 'Long day's journey into night' (at the Bolton Octogon), there was less of a sense of the past playing havoc with the present as of the characters being unwilling to leave the past alone. Aside from the issue of the younger son's impending diagnosis, the forces of the play are endogenous rather than exogenous. They talk themselves into despair. Ironically in a play which lasted, in this production, 3 hours and 15 minutes, the most striking refrain was the other characters beseeching the mother figure, Mary Tyrone (played by Margot Leicester as someone who looped the start of the next sentence to the end of her previous one), to "stop talking". Indeed.
But it is distinctly theatrical, by contrast with most films, to have the sense that we are witnessing not the action of the play itself but merely it's aftermath. The action is long over before the stage lights go on.