Posts Tagged ‘o’neill’

My Ideal Bookshelf

It’s nearly Christmas. Let’s indulge ourselves a bit.

There is a book, and, inevitably, a website, called “My Ideal Bookshelf”. In this book, various celebrities are asked to list up to twelve books that are particularly important to them for various reasons. Now, as I like to think I am something of a celebrity myself, I was a bit miffed at not being asked to contribute to this. Sure, we lesser mortals are invited to contribute our ideal bookshelves to the website mentioned above, but I am loftily ignoring this: it’s celebrity or nothing for me!

Fair enough, nothing it is…

If you are thinking that this is an excuse for yet another dreary list, you’d be perfectly correct. But as I say, it’s nearly Christmas. Let’s indulge ourselves a bit!

Here’s my ideal bookshelf:

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The reasoning behind the choices of most of the titles is self-explanatory. First of all – going from left to right – comes the Complete Works of Shakespeare. I was eleven when my parents took me to see King Lear at the Edinburgh Festival: Timothy West, then only in his 40s, played Lear on the bare stage of the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. Obviously, at that age, I took in but a fraction of it, but I was so excited by what I had seen, that I remember I could not get to sleep that night. That Christmas, I asked my parents for the Complete Works. There are at least a dozen or so of these plays that remain a constant presence in my mind. To celebrate – if “celebrate” is indeed the word I am looking for – my 50th year, I read through all these plays, in the order (as far as can be ascertained) in which they had been written. And I try to read at least one play each month. Life without these works would be unimaginable.

Then comes Rabindranath Tagore. Someone asked me once whether, given my obviously Bengali name, I knew the works of Tagore. Some of it, I replied: he wrote prolifically for decades, and I certainly haven’t ploughed through it all. Did I like his work? Well, I replied, as an educated Bengali, I don’t really have an option. His songs were probably the first music I ever heard; that extravagantly bearded visage was as familiar to me in my earliest childhood years as were pictures of my own family. Later in life, it did, I admit, come as a surprise to discover that, despite all the idolatry – which for many years put me off – his works actually are rather good. Extraordinarily good, indeed. Despite translations (which I am not qualified to judge, as they are not intended for me), the true extent of his literary greatness will be accessible only to native speakers. And for those native speakers who have come under his spell (and it is hard not to), a volume of Tagore’s poems is virtually a mandatory choice on the Ideal Bookshelf. But which volume? Even restricting oneself to poetry, his vast output cannot be contained in a single volume. After much thought, I chose Geetbitan, a collection of all his song lyrics. Literally thousands of them, covering just about every shade and nuance of human feeling imaginable. Tagore was among the greatest of songwriters (he composed the melodies as well as writing the words), and even when you don’t have the tune running round your head when reading them, these exquisite lyrics stand up perfectly well as poetry. There aren’t many song lyrics that do that.

Then comes Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, which I won’t write about here as there is already a fairly long and recent series of posts in this blog about this extraordinary novel. And speaking of extraordinary novels, there’s also Dickens’ Bleak House: I won’t write about this either, as I have done so only quite recently. Tolstoy and Dickens are the two novelists whose works mean most to me personally.

Next, I have chosen the Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James. I have always wondered why it is I so dislike fantasy literature, find myself bored by science fiction, and yet enjoy the unreality of a creepy ghost story. Not any type of ghost story, though: the ones I like are the ones in which the solidity of the real world is very strongly projected, so that that the intrusion of the irrational, when it appears, is transgressive. The sort of story, indeed, of which M. R. James was the master. Why do I enjoy these stories so much? Well, let’s not go too deeply into self-psychoanalysis: that sort of thing is bound to be a load of simplistic tripe anyway. But the Collected Ghost Stories of M. R. James remains a constantly on my bedside table.

Piled on top of these books in my picture are six paperback volumes of the major plays of Ibsen, in the translations by Michael Meyer. Yes, I know, it’s cheating: they’re six volumes. But each volume is so indispensible that I couldn’t leave any of them out. And in any case, these volumes could easily be stitched up together into a single large volume.

I came to Ibsen in my twenties, and was fascinated by the strange world he created. He is known primarily as a “social dramatist” – i.e. as a dramatist who dealt mainly with social issues. That is indeed how I used to think of him myself. But reading his plays, I found myself transported into the deepest and most mysterious regions of the mind itself: worlds opened up that were new to me, and which fascinated me. I still probably don’t understand what many of them are about, but, perhaps for that very reason, they continue to fascinate.

Then come two more novels – Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (which I read again some two years ago, and on which I have written a series of posts on this blog) and Joyce’s Ulysses. The latter is widely considered a sort of High Altar of Modernism, and has a reputation of being excessively difficult: that’s rather unfortunate, since, quite apart from anything else, it’s about as fun as any book I have read. I can still dip into it and read passages purely for enjoyment. Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, I have rather a difficult relationship with. I first encountered his works as a teenager, and was overwhelmed: the impact these novels had on me was almost visceral. But as I became older, doubts started to creep in: Are these novels not merely hysterical? Aren’t they unstructured, rambling, undisciplined? Was not my love of these novels merely a consequence of my teenage immaturity? And yet … and yet, scenes and themes and characters and images from these novels remained seared into my mind when other novels, apparently much better-written, had vanished without much trace. These novels, in other words, left behind the strongest of aftertastes. So I started, rather guiltily I suppose, to re-enter Dostoyevsky’s world. And I realised that these novels have to be taken on their own terms, and that there is no other novel that is even remotely comparable. Yes, I still frequently find myself wondering what the hell certain passages are about; I still find myself shaking my head at other times and thinking this won’t do. But that excitement I had experienced as a teenager remains. And I’m not sure why,

I suppose if I love Tolstoy because his vision of the world I find enriching; if I like Dickens because I love entering into that idiosyncratic fictional world of his; then I love Dostoyevsky because I enjoy having a fight with him. And I have had some good fights with him, and have come away from them bloodied but invigorated. Dostoyevsky’s novels are exploratory rather than declamatory, and, as with the plays of Ibsen, they explore regions that, had it not been for these works, would have been completely closed to me.

Now, the Sherlock Holmes stories. In the picture above, these appear in a lavish three-volume set (a birthday present from my wife on my 50th birthday); but since they can also be found contained in a single volume, I’m claiming this as one choice. I still have vivid memories of checking out The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes from Bishopbriggs Public Library when I was about 12 or so, and it was love at first sight; and this love hasn’t flagged since. These stories have been a constant companion to me for many, many years now, and, as with the ghost stories of M. R. James, have become the best of old friends, and lifelong companions. I tried in this post to explain why I love these stories, but I think I gave up after a while: there are certain things that resist explanation.

I finish with two volumes of poetry – by Yeats, and by Wordsworth – sandwiching Eugene O’Neill’s play Long Day’s Journey Into Night. It strikes me writing this post that a great many of the books that mean most to me reach back into my late childhood, and my teenage years: I suppose those are the years during which my literary taste was formed. And I certainly remember watching on television, aged twelve, the National Theatre production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night featuring Laurence Olivier in one of his legendary roles. I was mesmerised. That play has a hold on me still that I cannot explain: even other plays by Eugene O’Neill don’t resonate with me the way this one does. Once again, I am not sure I understand why.

And, of course, I want some poetry on by ideal shelf. I already have the song lyrics of Tagore, and the plays and poems of Shakespeare; add to these Wordsworth and Yeats, and I think that would keep me happy. As I explained in an earlier post, I like Wordsworth’s tone of voice – civilised and eloquent, the voice of someone conversing with me rather than of someone declaiming to me. But with that conversational tone, he can depict emotions and states of mind that seem transcendent, and contain intimations of immortality. Yes, we all know that we wrote much, especially in his advanced years, that was mediocre and worse; but we should judge each writer by their best, and the best of Wordworth – “Tintern Abbey”, “Ode on the Intimations of Immortality”, “The Solitary Reaper”, the 1805 text of The Prelude, some of the finest sonnets since Shakespeare, etc. etc. – would quite easily fill a good-sized volume. And despite their apparent plainness of diction, they affect me more than I think I can explain.

I do not write much about poetry on this blog, and that is mainly because I am not sure how to write about it. Poetry tends to affect me like music: I know what it makes me feel, but am not sure why. I suppose the only way to write about poetry is to provide close analysis of the rhythms, the sounds, the imagery, etc. – but there are many who can do that sort of thing far better than I possibly could. I did try to write about some poems by Yeats once on this blog, but I’ll not provide a link to it: it wasn’t, shall we say, among my best posts on here. So I will restrict myself here to giving some rough impressions of what Yeats’ poetry makes me feel. There’s the early stuff, of course – the “Celtic twilight” poem: these are products of the fag-end of Romanticism, with their alluring sensuality and the infectious folk rhythms. But even here, those rhythms aren’t always what one would expect from folk poetry: they are considerably knottier; and the themes became increasingly complex and ambiguous, the mythology more arcane. And it is fascinating tracing the development of Yeats’ poetic style as it moves almost seamlessly from a youthful Romanticism into a personal and very passionate form of modernism. For the older Yeats got, the more passionate he became. “Give me an old man’s frenzy,” he says at one point; and there is indeed a sort of frenzy in his poetry, a passionate striving and longing for he knows not what. Perhaps he remained a Romantic after all.

***

Well, that’s it folks – that’s my pre-Christmas indulgence done with. Now, the real indulgence starts: I already have bottles of malt whisky and Armagnac lined up for a most convivial and alcoholic festive season, and am looking forward to two idyllic weeks with the family.

And with my books, of course!

“A Moon for the Misbegotten” by Eugene O’Neill

Eugene O’Neill was a strange one. Long Day’s Journey into Night strikes me as a supremely great dramatic masterpiece, and continues to affect me profoundly; yet nothing else he has written – not even the undeniably powerful The Iceman Cometh – seems to come close to that achievement. 

A Moon for the Misbegotten was written shortly after Long Day’s Journey into Night, and, like the earlier play, again features the character Jamie Tyrone, a depiction of O’Neill’s own brother who had drunk himself to death. Here again we see the tortured, guilt-ridden alcoholic, haunted by the past, and attempting vainly to mask his emotional vulnerability and self-loathing under a veneer of nastiness and cynicism. But A Moon for the Misbegotten cannot really be seen – and nor was intended to be seen – as a sequel to the earlier play. The chronology is all wrong for a start. Clearly, the action of this play takes place after Long Day’s Journey, as the parents depicted in that play are both dead when the curtain rises on this one; however, the first act of this play ends with a scene that had been narrated as an anecdote in the earlier play, so it becomes impossible to perform the two works as a Part One and Part Two of the same saga. Also, the earlier play was so personal for O’Neill that he had forbidden either publication or performance during his own lifetime, whereas not only did he permit both performance and publication of this work, he apparently lost interest in it to such an extent that he couldn’t even summon up the energy to make the revisions to it that he knew it required. 

A Moon for the Misbegotten is clearly not up to the standards of Long Day’s Journey into Night, although many of the elements that had made the earlier work so hypnotically powerful are present here also. But it doesn’t quite seem to work here. In the earlier play, the various repetitions had a cumulative effect: they conveyed a sense of these characters probing and picking at the same wounds over and over again because they could not do otherwise; but here, the repetitions merely end up becoming tiresome. I think the reason for this difference is that Long Day’s Journey into Night had explored why the characters were as they were, whereas here, we are simply expected to accept these characters as they are, without delving into whys and hows. There is no explanation given, for instance, for James Tyrone’s hatred of his now-deceasad father, or for the reasons he had taken to drink in the first place: we know these things from Long Day’s Journey into Night, of course, but since these pieces of the jigsaw are withheld here, we don’t really see much more to James here than a pathetic, self-pitying drunk. And the drunken confessional that had seemed so raw and painful in the earlier play here runs the risk of appearing merely maudlin. It’s hard to see why a dramatist with the experience of Eugene O’Neill should write it like this: perhaps his own emotional investment in the play blinded him to its shortcomings. One can but speculate. But the long drunken confessional scene in Act Three of this play does not quite have the raw power that perhaps it should have had. 

James in not the only “misbegotten” character here. There is also Josie, described in the stage directions in the most unflattering of terms: 

Josie is twenty-eight. She is so oversize for a woman that she is almost a freak – five feet eleven in her stockings, and weighs around one hundred and eighty. Her sloping shoulders are broad, her chest deep and large, firm breasts, her waist wide but slender by contrast with her hips and thighs. She has long arms, immensely strong, although no muscles show. The same is true of her legs. 

She is more powerful than any but an exceptionally strong man, able to do the manual labour of two ordinary men. But there is no mannish quality about her. She is all woman. 

The map of Ireland is stamped on her face, with its long lip and small nose, thick black eyebrows, black hair as coarse as a horse’s mane, freckled, sun-burned fair skin, high cheekbones and heavy jaw. It is not a pretty face, but her large dark-blue eyes give it a note of beauty, and her smile, revealing white teeth, give it charm. 

Hmmm. I wonder how easy it is to find an actress answering to such a description, or, for that matter, how any actress must feel to imagine herself suited for such a role. However, this role has been successfully played on stage by actresses who are nothing like the “almost a freak” of O’Neill’s description; and the fact that O’Neill had described her in such impossible terms in his stage directions seems to me to imply that he had an ideal performance in his head, rather than something to be performed on an actual stage by an actual cast. This seems consistent with Christine Dymkowsky’s introduction to my edition, in which she writes: 

[O’Neill] could not really regard theatre as the collaborative activity it so patently is. Time and again, O’Neill lamented the process of staging his plays, complaining that the ideal play he had in his head never existed in production. Whereas playwrights generally welcome the new life that actors bring to their work, O’Neill saw it as a betrayal. So strongly did he feel this that he virtually never went to any productions of his plays, only attending rehearsals in order to advise and to cut when necessary. 

Josie too is “misbegotten”: like James, she too is lonely and emotionally vulnerable, but masks her vulnerability under a harsh and bitter jokeyness. The climactic confessional scene can, I imagine, be very effective, but O’Neill surely takes too long to get there, and the change of mood between the broad comedy of the long first act and the more serious tonality that follows is surely too abrupt a gear-shift. 

The other principal character is Josie’s father, Phil Hogan, a wily tenant farmer who is absent from the more heartfelt scenes, and appears to be present only to provide a bit of broad stage-Oirishness. Given the length of his role, this is hardly what one would expect from an experienced dramatist at the peak of his career. 

But despite all this, this play cannot be dismissed: there is something there, something that is heartfelt and raw. When Josie offers James the forgiveness he had so desperately sought, there is, despite everything, something very moving about it. But it’s difficult to consider any of this outside an autobiographical context: Josie’s forgiveness is surely what O’Neill himself wanted to say to his now dead brother. O’Neill is clearly exorcising his own ghosts here, and, like his literary idol Strindberg, was using the most public of art forms for the most private of purpose. However, one can’t help wondering whether there would be anything moving at all about any of this had we not known James Tyrone from Long Day’s Journey into Night

Was Eugene O’Neill a great dramatist? It’s hard to say. If I knew only this play and no other, I wouldn’t have thought so. But whether or not O’Neill was a great dramatist, Long Day’s Journey into Night remains a very great drama: there, everything came together just right. Perhaps O’Neill knew this himself. And perhaps it was for this reason that this, of all his plays, was the one he did not wish published or performed in his own lifetime. But when one knows that earlier play, something of its greatness seems to rub off on this one also.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

I have often wondered why it is that Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night has so powerful a hold on me. I have read some of his other plays as well, and, impressive though many of them are, none – to my mind, at least – comes even close to this particular achievement.

As is well-known, O’Neill depicted his own family here – his parents and his elder brother, with himself as the younger brother Edmund – and that the play was so painfully personal, that he did not allow either publication or performance within his own lifetime. But as, I think, with any work, we must judge it purely on its own terms: the author’s biography has no place in literary criticism. And even leaving aside the biographical element in this work, I find it a stupendous achievement.

The play opens in the morning, just after breakfast, in the somewhat shabbily furnished family home of the Tyrone family. Almost immediately, we meet the Tyrone family – James Tyrone, the former matinee idol of stage and still handsome and vigorous in his early 60s; his wife, Mary, some ten years younger but looking much older; and the two sons – the elder, Jamie, and the younger, Edmund. Apart from a maidservant who has a comparatively minor role, we are to be stuck with these four characters in this single set for the next three hours or so (longer if the full text is performed).  A series of scenes takes us through the day, and the very long final scene takes us into the depths of the night. Long day’s journey into night indeed. But the title is clearly metaphorical as well as literal: the darkness that threatens throughout envelops the characters by the end, and we, the audience, find ourselves overwhelmed with pity for these characters, and also with a sense of tragic terror.

So why do I keep returning to this gruelling marathon of misery and hopelessness? I wish I knew the answer to that. But perhaps the best way of trying to reach an answer is to examine the work.

In the first scene, there are unexplained tensions and undercurrents. The father and sons seem particularly concerned about the mother: why, we do not yet know. And there seems a certain hostility between father and elder son: they seem ready to jump at each other at the slightest. These things aren’t explained immediately. The various events that have led to the current situation all occurred in the past, before the curtain had risen, and the action we see on stage – insofar as it can be called “action” at all – concerns these characters trying to understand that past, trying to understand how, and why, the past has made them what they are now. “The past is the present, isn’t it?” asks Mary Tyrone at one point. “And it’s the future too.” What we see is the present, but it is the past also. In a sense, the entire play is one long exposition.

But what can these people learn about the past that is new to them? There is no surprise revelation: they all know about the past. They have brooded endlessly on those events of the past, over and over again – they cannot do otherwise. They are so close to each other that not one of them can make the slightest move without hurting someone else; and they keep rehearsing past events almost obsessively, blaming each other, alternately blaming and justifying themselves, unable to come to terms with what has happened.

The past does not emerge in chronological order. Rather, it emerges in bits and pieces, and we have to piece it together ourselves. We gather that when Edmund had been born, the doctor attending his mother had put her on to morphine, and that she had, as a consequence, become addicted. The elder brother blames his father for being too tight-fisted to get a proper doctor. The elder brother himself has wasted away his considerable talents in dissipation and drunkenness, and is now merely a pathetic alcoholic wreck of a man, a wastrel. But the worst of it is that he is also a very intelligent man, and can see quite clearly what he has become, and what he might have been; and he hates himself perhaps even more than he hates his father. He is full of loathing and disgust, but the deepest loathing and disgust is reserved for his own self. He has a sort of possessive love for his younger brother, with whom he has always been close; but he insists, especially when he is drunk, on seeing the very worst side of everything and of everyone – even of himself; and can’t help wondering out loud whether he had deliberately tried to destroy his brother under the guise of friendship because, as he puts it, “I did not want to be the only corpse round the place”.

On the particular day on which this play takes place, they are all waiting anxiously for some news about the younger son; and in the afternoon, the worst is confirmed: Edmund has tuberculosis, which, in those days, was virtually a death sentence. The mother is outwardly in denial, but inwardly, she is terrified, and her fears prompt her back to her addiction. By the end of the play, she is like a ghost, completely lost to a present too terrible for her to face, her mind wandering vaguely through various events of the past.

These characters all seem to hate and love each other at the same time. This is what makes the whole drama so heart-rending. There are many explosive moments of confrontation, but beneath it all is a tremendous love and pity, and, yes, even tenderness. This is never depicted in sentimental terms: indeed, on first viewing, they seem to do little except rage at each other. But they cannot help doing this: they cannot help wounding each other any more than they can help wound their own selves.

As the play progresses, we become increasingly caught in the complex coils of these relationships, and soon, we find ourselves inextricably bound. There is much repetition, as is inevitable: these characters’ minds have been circling endlessly around the same familiar themes. I remember seeing Jason Robards talking about this aspect of the play (Robards was particularly closely associated with this play, having played the elder brother in his younger days, and the father when he was older), and he insisted that every repetition occurs in a different dramatic context, and throws new light on the situation and on the characters. That is no doubt true, but the effect created is not one of a linear forward movement, but rather of a sort of spiralling. By the end, one feels overwhelmed by the sheer cumulative weight of it all.

The light of day passes soon enough. In the third of the four acts, the mother returns from a car ride, accompanied only by the maidservant. She has already taken enough morphine to be only vaguely aware of the present: in a piece of virtuoso dramatic writing, she is given a series of monologues in which her mind spirals back to various events of the past, re-interpreted in her own way. And punctuating all this is the mournful sound of the foghorn, coming intermittently from outside. The maidservant, who is not too bright to start with, has become tipsy on the whiskey she has been treated to, and she can’t understand what her mistress is saying; but her mistress is not really speaking to her anyway. O’Neill somehow maintains this scene over a very long stretch, and time seems almost to stand still. I think it’s one of the most remarkable scenes in all drama.

The final drink-sodden act is the longest: it usually lasts for well over an hour. We are now in the darkest depths of night. The younger son has returned home drunk; the father is sitting on his own in the darkness, afraid to go upstairs and see his wife. The scene between father and son is extraordinary: for perhaps the very first time, they reach – albeit through acrimonious recriminations – a sort of understanding of each other. We begin to see here the father’s tragedy as well, and find ourselves touched as he recalls that one moment in his life that is still worth holding on to – the memory of when the great Edwin Booth (“the greatest actor of his time, or of any other time”) – had praised his performance of Othello, and had said “That young man is playing Othello better than I ever did”.  James Tyrone had subsequently wasted that talent, but all the same, he did have that talent. And amidst the wreckage of his life, he holds on to its memory, because this really is all he does have to hold on to.

Then, the elder son, Jamie, comes home, dead drunk. The father doesn’t want to be with Jamie in this state, and he steps outside, and before Jamie collapses into a drunken stupor, we have, between him and Edmund, perhaps the most electrifying and gut-wrenching scene of all. Here, love and hate are so close together, they seem inseparable. I know I said earlier that the work has to be judged on its own terms, but one wonders how the aged O’Neill must have felt dramatising his own beloved brother (who was dead by the time the play was written) with such openness, but at the same time with such love. The wounds exposed in this scene are particularly raw, and, even now, despite having read this many times and seen it in various productions, I find it emotionally harrowing.

In the finale, the mother comes downstairs. She is by this stage far gone, and has lost all connection with the present. And as she starts rambling, the cynical Jamie, of all people, bursts into tears. The curtain eventually falls on this family, these people who have undertaken this very long day’s journey into night, staring into the deepest darkness.

***

We are fortunate in having some very fine performances of this work available. For those with a multi-region DVD player, there’s the famous National Theatre performance from the early 70s, featuring what Dennis Quilley (who plays Jamie) subsequently referred to as Olivier’s “last great performance”.  I haven’t seen this since it was first broadcast back in 1972: I was 12, and found myself transfixed by the drama. From what I hear, the text is very severely cut (the mother’s monologues in the third act are almost all gone). But for all that, from what I hear and from what I remember from my childhood viewing, it’s worth having, if only for Olivier’s deeply passionate performance – although the entire cast (Constance Cummings, Dennis Quilley, Ronald Pickup) are, I am told, very, very good. I really must get hold of this DVD.

Sidney Lumet directed a fine film version of this. Lumet was an expert in directing within limited sets (Twelve Angry Men is perhaps the most famous example of this), and he uses all the techniques available to communicate the essence of this coruscating drama in cinematic terms: the lighting, camera angles, editing, are all the work of a complete master of cinematic technique. Katharine Hepburn is very effective as the mother, and handles her monologues superbly; Dean Stockwell is a fine Edmund, and Ralph Richardson gives a somewhat understated (but nonetheless effective) performance as the father. But best of all, perhaps, is Jason Robards as Jamie: one can see why he was so famous in this role. This film is well worth seeking out.

There is also a DVD of the stage production directed by Jonathan Miller, with Jack Lemmon as the father and the then relatively unknown Kevin Spacey as Jamie. The mother was played by American stage actress Bethel Leslie, who emphasised more than is usual the mother’s manipulative ways, and her frequent recourse to emotional blackmail. Miller speeded up the play, getting the actors often to speak over each other: after all, he argued, these characters had heard it all before. This lightened the tone somewhat, and even introduced surprising elements of comedy; and it also meant that when the characters do hear something that is new to them (e.g. when James Tyrone tells Edmund of the praise Edwin Booth had given his performance of Othello), it really registers. I thought Jonathan Miller’s approach worked superbly well.

And there’s also an audio recording from the early 60s which is now available once again, this time on CD. The mother is played with a startling intensity by Geraldine Fitzgerald: there are times when the character seems to be on the brink of an abyss, and she projects a sense of sheer terror. Robert Ryan plays a James Tyrone who feels things very deeply: it is, perhaps, the most touching performance I have come across of this role. Stacey Keach as Jamie is more obviously vulnerable than was the more hard-bitten Jason Robards, and James Naughton makes an excellent job of the role of Edmund.

In short, anyone who wishes to experience this (to my mind) supremely great play is spoilt for choice. It is not something I would wish to experience on a regular basis: it is far too emotionally harrowing for that. But, for reasons I cannot fathom, it has an effect on me that tragedy, I am told, is supposed to have: it resonates very deeply with me, and I find something very cathartic about it.