Desire Under the Elms*** (Lyric Hammersmith, 26 Oct 2012)

Posted: October 27, 2012 in Theatre

A rarely-seen 1924 Eugene O’Neill play, written before the familiar masterpieces but after “Anna Christie” which was performed so successfully at the Donmar last year. Most of the writer’s trademarks are here, a tight dysfunctional family unit, characters yearning for better lives, but the key element that is missing is believability with the result that the play comes across more like Victorian melodrama than serious theatre. The acting is strong, overlooking some dodgy accents, so it is hard to blame the actors for failing to make their characters’ words and actions credible. Also the production is fluid and creates several haunting images, but however worthy the efforts of all involved, the task of making this play relevant to a 21st century audience ultimately proves beyond them.

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