DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS: Eugene O’Neill
Runs: 2h, one interval, till Sat 9 October
Tickets: 01782 717962
Review: Rod Dungate, 27 September 2008
Bleak, powerful, cleansing.
Eugene O’Neill’s uncompromising play is frequently spoke of as his bleak analysis of the American Dream. This is fair, but doesn’t really do the play 21st Century justice. In this rare revival, you can reinterpret the play as an attack on free-market or capitalist values. For the characters are motivated by the will to possess – to own. In the play it’s a farm, but the farm could signify anything.
So, in the way fine works of art have, this play is relevant in a new focus in a new set of circumstances. As the globe struggles its way out of a recession – caused, in a major way, by US led banks and financiers (no difficulty in seeing greed there), we can watch the avarice motivation laid as bare as bare in this play.
The story’s simple enough; an old farmer brings a young wife to his farm, where one of his sons has paid off the two other sons. Old man, young wife, son battle for ownership of the farm; the battle is more complex when the wife has a son. And is there any place for love?
It’s O’Neill’s scientific dissection of greed’s power that is mesmerising in the way the plot works – it’s more powerful that any notion of love, hate, sex, sexuality. All these, as father, son and young wife fight for supremacy, because powerful weapons. And from this, also stems the play’s bleakness.
Some fine performances from all, in particular the central trio in this highly charged emotional tangle. And, in the true nature of tragedy, you leave the theatre feeling somewhat cleansed.
Simeon: Tim Chipping
Eben: Cary Crankson
Peter: Owen Oakeshott
Abbie: Victoria Lloyd
Cabot: Gareth Thomas
Ensemble: Zora Bishop, Darrell Davy, Oliver Devoti, Katrina Innes, Rebecca Letford, Kayleigh McDonald, Majid Mehdizadeh, Cliff Myatt
Director: James Dacre
Designer: Lis Evans
Lighting Designer: Daniella Beattie
Sound Designer and Original Music: James Earls-Davis
Video Designer: Dick Straker for Mesmer
Movement Director: Lesley Hutchison
Musical Director: Sue Moffat
Fight Director: Philip d’Orleans
Voice and Dialect Coach: Charmian Hoare
Casting Associate: Anji Carroll
Assistant Director: Paschale Straiton