Strange Interlude

Theatre

West End

National Theatre, Lyttelton

Until Sun Sep 1 2013

  • © Johan Persson

    Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds)

  • © Johan Persson

    Charles Edwards (Charles Marsden) and Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds)

  • © Johan Persson

    Jason Watkins (Sam Evans) and Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds)

  • © Johan Persson

    Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds) and Darren Pettie (Edmund Darrell)

  • Johan Persson

    Charles Edwards (Charles Marsden), Jason Watkins (Sam Evans), Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds) and Darren Pettie (Edmund Darrell)

  • © Johan Persson

    Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds), Theo Fewell (Gordon Evans) and Jason Watkins (Sam Evans)

  • © Johan Persson

    Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds), Wilf Scolding (Gordon Evans) and Darren Pettie (Edmund Darrell)

  • © Johan Persson

    Charles Edwards (Charles Marsden) and Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds)

  • © Johan Persson

    Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds)

  • © Johan Persson

    Charles Edwards (Charles Marsden) and Darren Pettie (Edmund Darrell)

  • © Johan Persson

    Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds) and Darren Pettie (Edmund Darrell)

  • © Johan Persson

    Charles Edwards (Charles Marsden), Darren Pettie (Edmund Darrell)

© Johan Persson

Anne-Marie Duff (Nina Leeds)

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LiveReviews|7
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Virginia

And there was me thinking this was wonderful in a retro kind of way - funny, brilliantly acted, sometimes insightful. I can think of many plays where I've nodded off but not this one. Glad I didn't read the reviews above before I went to see it.

Thomas OE

I am genuinely surprised to see the broadly positive reviews that this production has received. The actors do as good a job as they can with the material, but I found the play itself to be really rather dreadful. I am not familiar with Eugene O'Neill's work, which is clearly highly regarded given the awards that he and this play received, but I struggle to understand the appeal. The dialogue is at once unimaginatively direct and ridiculously histrionic, with some terribly leaden bits of exposition, in which the characters explain the plot to one another despite the fact that all concerned would clearly already know all the details under discussion. The direction veers decidedly towards the over-the-top, such that, particularly in the second half, there are moments when it feels like you are watching a deliberate parody or even a period stage adaptation of Eastenders. As for the frequent asides that pepper the dialogue, while these are a potentially interesting device, I often found myself baffled as to what on Earth the author thought they contributed. What purpose is served by having a character announce "I must tell him" before doing exactly that? Surely the regular dialogue conveys all the necessary information and in a far more elegant way? None of the characters does anything to particularly make us warm to them or care about them, so their increasingly repetitious self-obsessions rapidly become tedious. The decisions that they are required to make also strain credibility to breaking point, such as when a central character is persuaded, in lightning quick time, to take a drastic and life changing action on the basis of unsubstantiated waffle about the family's medical history. The sexual politics of the piece are also horrendous, with the initially strong-willed leading female character repeatedly shown to have no value but through her relationships with the series of tepid men who each wait their turn to command her affections, from her dead sweetheart to her unpleasant son. Given that the play was written in the 1920s, I could easily forgive such problematic attitudes as artefacts of the period if the play had anything else to recommend it, but sadly I think I have made it clear that I couldn't find any such redeeming features. The final indignity is the fact that the whole thing just goes on and on forever. Three and a quarter hours is a ridiculous length for this piece; the plot would actually have felt more satisfying if it had finished at the end of the first half. To be fair, the actors manage to squeeze some comedy out of the dialogue (although in places this slightly undermines the bleak nature of the material) and the sets are highly impressive. Overall, unfortunately, my advice would definitely be to find a better way to spend the evening.

Damon

Wonderful production with great cast somewhat undermined by the fact this is an absolutely appalling play. Edwardian melodrama has had its day and Eugene O'Neill just doesn't cut it. Although Strange Interlude once won a Purlitzer, there's no real story here and neither the script, nor characters, are interesting enough for over 3 hours. If anyone dared to, it would be fun to cut it to around an hour and a half and play it as farce - the constant asides to the audience could give it license. David above has hit the nail on the head - with the exception of Long Days Journey into Night (and David Suchet was mesmerising in the recent production) could everyone please stop reviving O'Neill?

Deb

I agree that the play is a little dated, but the performances were fantastic (particularly Duff, Watkins and Edwards). Fabulous set design. I wasn't disappointed.

Daniel

As an avid fan of everything the NT produces due to its outstanding quality, I couldn't refuse an invitation to this NT produced play. Not knowing much about it I went in with fresh eyes. 15 minutes into the play and it felt like I was in the wrong theatre. There was a vague reminiscence to other NT plays but there was something lacking...for me, the problem was mainly in the staging, the lighting and the design of the set. It never felt like it came alive even if the actors did a good job. The writing also lacked wit and as a whole, I don't think the directing did the best they could with the subject matter of the play. We were fighting falling asleep and at the interval we decided not to go back.

David

As an American, it continues to astonish me that British critics tend to give such high marks to O'Neill, whereas my (American) theater-loving friends and I tend to see him as a terrible old hack (with the notable exception of "Long Day's Journey"). "Strange Interlude" has to be one of the worst plays written in the 20th century, and while this production is impeccably staged, it can't conceal the fact that the material is ludicrous and extremely dated.

Martin

Disappointing. Anne Marie Duff is wonderful but the play suffers from an inconsistent tone, which is at times extremely dark and others almost farcical. It's also far too long, the second half drags considerably. This being the NT, it is undoubtedly a quality production but the story and direction let it down.