by Eugene O’Neill.

Royal and Derngate In rep to 14 November 2009.
7.45pm 27, 29-30 Oct, 4, 7, 9-10, 12-13 Nov.
2pm 31 Oct, 5, 14 Nov.
Audio-described 27 Oct.
BSL Signed 29 Oct.
Runs: 2hr 30min One interval.

TICKETS: 01604 624811.
Review: Ian Spiby 21 October.

Sterling performance of forgotten play.
Artistic Director Laurie Sansom’s policy of reviving little-known plays by famous playwrights has again produced dividends, providing an absorbing evening. The danger of such a policy is that plays are often forgotten for the sound reason that they are not very good. And Beyond the Horizon, the first part of the Royal and Derngate’s ‘Young America’ season, has its weaknesses. Credibility is often strained as playwright Eugene O’Neill struggles to convey essential information and as characters are moved on and off stage to allow different combinations to converse. Too often it seems, O’Neill’s answer to the problem of what to do with characters who are no longer needed is simply to kill them off.

Those caveats aside, however, he provides us with a convincing study of failure – failure because the characters do not fulfill their true destinies. Following your dream, as every student of American theatre knows, is a familiar theme, from Arthur Miller to Oscar Hammerstein; here it is sketched out in the starkest of terms.

Two farmer’s sons, Robert and Andrew, love the same woman, Ruth. Robert, the poetic and bookish one, abandons his plan to travel the world when he finds his love is reciprocated. As a result, Andrew who is truly at home on the farm, leaves instead, out of disappointment. Under Robert’s inexpert hands the farm gradually descends into ruin and his marriage turns sour. Meanwhile, Andrew, successful as a businessman while he is dealing honestly in wheat, comes to grief once he begins to speculate.

Michael Malarkey, Michael Thomson and Liz White tackle these main characters bravely, overcoming difficulties of development and complexity in the writing. They’re ably supported by the rest of the cast, particularly Robin Bowerman’s convincing portrayals of Captain Dick Scott and Dr Fawcett.

Sansom’s sure touch is present in the production’s theatricality, and is augmented by Sara Perks’ superb set, the lighting design of Chris Davey, Jon Nicholls’ music and Christopher Shutt’s sound design. These all combine to convey a haunting atmosphere to match and support the theme of the play.

Sarah Atkins: Joanna Bacon.
Captain Dick Scott/Dr Fawcett: Robin Bowerman.
Ben: Gavin Harrison.
James Mayo: James Jordan.
Kate Mayo: Jacqueline King.
Robert Mayo: Michael Malarkey.
Andrew Mayo: Michael Thomson.
Ruth Atkins: Liz White.
Mary Mayo: Hannah Brown/Erin O’Callaghan.

Director: Laurie Sansom.
Designer: Sarah Perks.
Lighting: Chris Davey.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Composer: Jon Nichols.
Dialect coach: Rebecca Carey.

2009-10-24 12:20:00

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