Geraldine Galligan and Anthony Delap, in rehearsals for "Long Day's Journey Into Night". Photo Brian McDaid.
Letterkenny Music and Drama Group is taking on Eugene O'Neill's masterwork, “Long Day's Journey Into Night”, for what is believed to be its first performance in Letterkenny.
That's a bold statement. But director Kieran Kelly, well known to Donegal audiences, wouldn't want it any other way.
He was told, “You're taking on a beast”, for staging what has been called the greatest play in American theatre.
"But that's how you push yourself,” Kieran said.
LMDG’s “Long Day's Journey Into Night” comes to An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny at 8pm on Friday, Feb. 17th. They are taking the play on the Drama Festival Circuit, with performances in Newtownstewart (Feb. 24th), Rush (Feb. 25th), Castleblayney (March 5th), Derry (March 8th), Ballyshannon (March 15th), Bangor (March 18th), Newry (March 26th) and Strabane (March 31st).
First published three years after O'Neill's death, the play depicts a shattering day in the lives of the haunted Tyrone family: James, a disappointed former actor whose memory of poverty has left him frugal; his wife, Mary, addicted to morphine and to her own memories; and their sons Jamie, a cynical and dissolute actor; and Edmund, a sensitive but sickly young man. Cathleen, the Irish servant girl to the troubled household, punctuates the drama with wry observations.
The play is largely autobiographical, with Edmund standing in for the playwright. “Long Day's Journey Into Night” received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play in 1957, and subsequent revivals have seen such notable actors as Kevin Spacey, Laurence Olivier, Vanessa Redgrave and Jessica Lange, among others, in the challenging roles.
In this production, well-known LMDG actors Geraldine Galligan and Anthony Delap play Mary and James, with Martin Hasson as Jamie, Joseph Gallagher as Edmund and Elaine Gillespie as Cathleen.
Kieran said finding the right cast was key. The actors “have to keep focused 100 per cent of the time,” he said.
This is the first drama Kieran has directed; he directed LMDG's “Bugsy Malone” in 2014. “I wanted to really push myself and see what I could do,” he said.
Kieran first joined LMDG in their 2007 production, “Children of the Dead End”, and was one of the four cast members in LMDG's acclaimed production of “The 39 Steps”, which won 55 awards, including All-Ireland honours, in the 2012 festival circuit.
He is also excited about bringing the play to Letterkenny for the first time. “I don't like ploughing the path that someone else has already done, because you'll always be compared to that,” he said.
O’Neill’s classic may focus on one family, but the themes it addresses and the pain and relationships that it explores are universal, Kieran said.
“I want it to be as real life as possible,” he said. He added, “I want to keep it simple. I don't want the audience to be distracted by anything because the story, I think, is a work of art.”
Kieran said his stage direction has followed the adage “less is more”.
“In real life we contain so much, and if you see that contained you know eventually it has to burst,” he said.