These three short early Eugene O’Neil plays, when played together as they are here, provide an evocative picture of seafaring life in the early 20th century. The Old Vic tunnels provide the perfect atmosphere, aided by harbour ‘installations’ (barrels and nets!) and men shovelling coal in a side tunnel as you enter. They’re far from O’Neill’s best work, but for anyone interested in this titan of modern drama, they’re a must-see.
The first two plays are set at sea (so seamlessly in this production, I thought it was one play!). In the first, Bound East for Cardiff, the ship enters stormy waters resulting in the death of one of the crew. In the second, In the Zone, set at a time of war, a seaman who is ‘different’ is suspected of being a spy and as his true story is revealed he is broken. In the third play, The Long Voyage Home, we’re in a port bar where a naïve Swedish seaman is drugged and fleeced by the bar owner in collusion with a prostitute and assorted lowlife.
They are slight stories but they do add up to something much more than the parts. They’re well staged by Kenneth Hoyt (the opening of the first is particularly thrilling) and well performed. You can almost smell the sea & the sweat and the characterisations are surprisingly deep given their short length. I was particularly impressed by the performances in the third play, with Amanda Boxer as a prostitute, Raymond M Sage as the Swedish seaman and Eddie Webber as Joe.
The best of the three shows I’ve seen in the Old Vic Tunnels and well worth catching. - Gareth James
22 Feb 12
I sat in row C. The front rows are not raked and there is no stage. I therefore could not see anything of the actors. As "radio plays" they suffered from shouting in rather ludicrous accents, so also hard to hear. Disappointing - a fantastic location and set ruined by complete lack of attention to audience needs. - JH
20 Feb 12
Full marks for atmosphere as the dark and dank tunnels underneath Waterloo Station provide an exciting setting for Eugene O'Neill's one act plays based on the time he spent at sea. It starts with an extraordinary storm sequence far more effective than any conjoured up for a production of The Tempest, but the plays themselves do not change my opinion of O'Neill. Just as in Anna Christie, the dialogue is clumsy and cliched and delivered in a range of accents that are unintentionally funny. Basically I don't really get O'Neill and not even the superb cast that has been assembled is likely to make me want to endure A Long Day's Journey Into Night - surely one of the most aptly named plays of all time.
- David Baxter
17 Feb 12
A great play with fantastic set design and top draw cast enjoyed it from beginning to end well worth a night out in the wonderful setting of the old vic tunnels - Michael Parle
13 Feb 12
typo in your review puts it in the wrong century - O'Neill naturalism arrived in 1916, not 1816! - E.T.
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