Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville on 'Long Day's Journey Into Night'
‘I’ve done a lot of plays,’ says Lesley Manville, with some understatement. ‘A lot of great plays: Caryl Churchill, Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, Shakespeare. But I don’t think I’m overselling it by saying that this is the greatest play I’ve ever done.’ The work in question is Eugene O’Neill’s titanic ‘Long Day’s Journey into Night’. A three-and-a-half-hour eruption of pain that depicts the disintegration of the broken Tyrone family – a thinly veiled version of O’Neill’s own clan – he wrote it clandestinely and stipulated that it wasn’t to be published until 25 years after his death, and never performed. In fact it was published and performed a mere three years after, in 1956, and swiftly went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and secure its reputation as the greatest American play ever written. ‘I feel the same,’ says Jeremy Irons, Manville’s co-star in a new West End revival of the masterpiece. ‘It’s something to do with the fact that he locked himself away for so long writing it, trying to understand his parents and what he was. He doesn’t judge, he doesn’t do anything for effect; instead, he simply wrote what he wanted to say, and that makes it a very rare play.’ Irons plays James Tyrone, the patriarch of the family, a classical actor who has sold his artistry down the river by staying in the same role, for money, for most of his life (O’Neill’s father played the title role in ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ north of 6,000 times). Manville is Mary Tyrone, who – like O’N
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