Year of the Producer: Kim Poster’s Eureka Moment for Long Day’s Journey into Night

Following his huge 2010 success with All My Sons – for which he was named Best Actor at the 2011 and Critics’ Circle Awards – David Suchet returns to the West End’s Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, again for producer Kim Poster.
Here, as part of our ongoing Year of the Producer series, Kim Poster tells us the story behind the production.

Kim Poster: The formidable Nica Burns (theatre impresario and co-owner of Nimax Theatres) came to me to say that she had been working on Long Day’s Journey into Night for a while and wanted to know if I would like to co-produce with her. Because I love the play and it’s very much the sort of play that I am quite passionate about I was thrilled.
The day that she asked me to co-produce with her I happened to be attending the Evening Standard Awards for All My Sons with David Suchet who is a long-time friend and I’ve produced him twice already, in Amadeus (in the West End and on Broadway) as well as All My Sons.

David had been looking for a comedy to do after All My Sons. He asked me what I was doing next and I told him with great enthusiasm that Nica had asked me to do Long Day’s Journey into Night.

I saw the look in his eyes and spent an hour talking to him about the comedic possibilities of the play. In any great tragedy there are comic moments, and in wonderful productions those comic moments give the audience a tremendous amount of relief. Six weeks later, he agreed to play what is for me one of the great iconic roles of the classical canon, James Tyrone.

We readily accommodated his filming commitments; as an independent producer I have the luxury of doing what’s right for the production and Nica as the theatre owner could make the theatre available when it was good for David.

David is one of the great classical actors of this generation. His versatility in his vocal and technical capabilities is matched by such an emotional, passionate dedication and truthfulness in a role. He can do anything. It is a privilege for me to produce him on a regular basis.

We’ve even got one more up our sleeves – don’t ask, because I won’t tell.

Laurie Metcalf & David Suchet in Long Day’s Journey into Night. Photo credit: Johan Persson

As regards the rest of the cast and the creative team, we always aim to have the very highest calibre at every level. Happily, director Anthony Page had been longing to do the play.

The casting was a very long process because we really went searching for all of the other roles and we auditioned lots of people. We didn’t really know Kyle Soller very well, but he came with a very good recommendation and he was just superb in the audition.

There was really no question about him but we were also careful: We had David come in and audition with him on stage and they got on. The same was true of Trevor White, who gave almost the best audition I’ve ever seen.

The casting of Mary was crucially important. Laurie Metcalf I know very well, not just as a big television name but also as a very proper stage actor in America. Being one of the founding members of Steppenwolf, she has done a great deal on Broadway. I had seen her on stage many times and was very excited when her name was put forward by her agent. She passionately wanted to play Mary.

There is something very enticing when you have an actor who wants to play a role so strongly because if the passion is there, that’s 50% of the job done. I leave it to the audience to judge, but I feel in my heart that I made the right choices.

Is lightning going to strike twice with me and David at the Apollo Theatre? We are all very aware of how high the bar was set with All My Sons and we have all done our very best to ensure that we match it. But it’s not for me to judge.

– Kim Poster was speaking to Terri Paddock

Long Day’s Journey into Night opens tonight (10 April, previews from 2 April) at the Apollo Theatre where it plays a limited season until 18 August 2012.