Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT?

Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play is now open at the Wyndham's Theatre

By: Apr. 03, 2024
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Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT?
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The Emmy, Golden Globe and Olivier award-winning actor Brian Cox, has made his return to the London stage in Jeremy Herrin’s new production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Often regarded as the greatest American play of the 20th Century, Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play depicts a summer day in the life of the Tyrones, closely based on O’Neill’s own chaotically dysfunctional family. Deeply moving and uplifting in equal measure, it’s a compelling story of love, hate, betrayal and addiction and the impossible fragility of family bonds.

So what did the critics think?

Photo Credit: Johan Persson

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Louise Penn, BroadwayWorld: Long Day's Journey Into Night is a good example of a play that needs to take time to grow, dropping little hints along the way of when this family could have been happy, could have captured a moment that didn't bring them to this crisis. It's a play which weighs its words and sees the story through each of the four character's eyes.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Tim Bano, The Independent: By no means is this a perfect production. The stripped-back approach is really exposing, and there are moments when it doesn’t bear up to the scrutiny, especially in the whisky-heavy later scenes. You miss the heft, too, when neither Cox nor Clarkson are on stage – less a criticism of the sons than a testament to the hypnotic skill of the parents – and some scenes in the second half feel really bum-numbingly long. And it’s not exactly an enjoyable night out at the theatre either. What it is, though, is very impressive, often mesmerising and – when it hits right – really profoundly moving.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Sam Marlowe, The Stage: A serene smile battling with tiny nervous gestures, her eyes increasingly somnolent and vague as the drug kicks in, Clarkson is shattering. Cox’s James combines an ox-like bulk and power with the silver-haired, self-conscious elegance of an old stager. We see flashes of the saloon-bar raconteur and when he hits the whiskey his face acquires a devilish distortion of mingled glee and pain – yet he’s devastating, too, in the final scenes, tenderly cradling his wife’s wedding dress while Mary is lost in reverie.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: As a domineering, intemperate patriarch who has tightly controlled the purse-strings, the parallels with Succession are plain but the points of divergence are clear. Tyrone is a warmer character, aware of his fallibility; and whereas on screen Cox’s forte was forbidding impassivity, this verbose, confined epic calls for vocal clout and physical heft.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage: Cox, all bark and ferocity, plays up the character’s fury, his sense of betrayal, his anger at the world and himself. In short, punchy outbursts of speech, he is cruelly dismissive of James, and you almost feel McCormack flinch beneath his verbal blows. Even more shockingly, he is prepared to skimp on the care of the delicate Edmund, whose diagnosis with consumption provides the play’s main narrative thread. Yet in the long final conversation between them, Cox also reveals James’s fear of poverty, and Kynaston’s wonderfully intense and frightened Edmund listens as if understanding his father for the first time.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Clive Davis, The Times: Fans of Succession certainly won’t complain of being short-changed in terms of pure man-hours: Cox, better known now as the media baron Logan Roy, is the dominant figure in a workmanlike venture, directed by Jeremy Herrin, which, at times, really does feel like it’s wending its way towards the witching hour and beyond. By turns stern and maudlin, Cox is always watchable, but he’s still not able to prevent long-winded confrontations and confessions from slipping into melodrama.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out: I’d like to see a bit more daring than a tweak to the acting next time this play is revived. This is the third ‘Long Day’s Journey’ to hit the West End in 12 years, and none have exactly been formally wild. There’s some nifty sound design here from Tom Gibbons – sepulchral fog horns, and subtler ambient sounds – but mostly this is a very straight production.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Greg Stewart, Theatre Weekly: This is a fine production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and Herrin’s direction keeps it feeling relatively fresh. Perhaps it’s because of just how close to the bone O’Neill’s writing is that audiences still flock to see it, just as the Tyrone family always return to whisky and disappointment.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? David Benedict, Variety: The cumulative power of a still horribly recognizable journey through desperate, misplaced hope has ensured the longevity of O’Neill’s drama. Despite the unevenness of this production, Clarkson’s tender glow keeps it alive.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Olivia Rook, London Theatre: While Cox’s performance is undeniably strong, he is often outshone by Patricia Clarkson’s Mary, who veers between drug-induced serenity and a frantic energy, her sentences running into each other as reflections on the past and present thoughts collide. One moment, she is doting and anxious about Edmund’s health, and the next, she is abrasive and cruel in her observations. Clarkson perfectly captures a desperate picture of addiction, her mind clouded like the fog that surrounds their seaside home, which is signalled by sound designer Tom Gibbons’s unsettling foghorn that rings out even during the interval.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Nick Curtis, The Standard: Hell is other family members, just as it was for the Roys. I promised myself I wouldn’t make too many comparisons between Cox’s sublime turn in the best TV show in recent years, and his towering performance here. But, you know, f**k it: this is O’Neill for the Succession generation.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Fiona Mountford, iNews: Clarkson is magnificent, giving the performance of the evening, shaping Mary into a figure of almost ethereal radiance, present but also absent. She is, we gradually and painfully learn, a morphine addict, driven to drugs by grief and loneliness, while her husband and sons seek solace in long, whisky-fuelled sessions in bars.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Arifa Akbar, The Guardian: Some scenes glitter with dark energy, and are truly tragic. Others feel protracted, the play’s old-fashioned exposition exposed, and the over-used device of characters narrating memories feeling like lengthy confessions. The circularity of family argument and accusation, are grinding too, and do not always absorb us, emotionally. At three and a half hours it feels withering. Then again, that is the point here. This is the ultimate family reckoning, with some light, but mostly shade.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Neil Norman, Express: The one-note bluster of the first act fails to convey Tyrone’s wheedling self pity; over compensating for his shaky grip on the lines, he doesn’t find his feet until the second half, especially in the extended monologue with his youngest son, Edmund, diagnosed with consumption. Until then all eyes are on Patricia Clarkson as Mary Tyrone who delivers a forensically detailed performance of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT? Matt Wolf, The Arts Desk: I'm with James and Jamie and Edmund in awaiting every footstep of Mary, whether she is actually in the room or lowering overhead, unseen, within the claustrophobic Monte Cristo Cottage in Connecticut where this Nobel laureate's play is set. (The home is referenced in the text as "this shabby place".) And as the day turns to night and the characters' demons emerge, you're once again reminded of the formidable power of this woman at her most fragile: the tyranny of the weak restored once more to tremulous life.

Review Roundup: Did Brian Cox Impress in LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT?
Average Rating: 71.3%


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