Learn about Eugene O'Neill productions in London ahead of 'Long Day's Journey Into Night'

O'Neill's masterwork is playing at Wyndham's Theatre from March, starring Brian Cox, Patricia Clarkson, Laurie Kynaston, Daryl McCormack, and Louisa Harland.

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

You haven’t seen the last of Logan Roy. Succession star Brian Cox is back in the West End, leading an all-star cast in Eugene O’Neill’s Pulitzer-winning play Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Jeremy Herrin directs this major revival at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre from March.

Cox plays James Tyrone Senior, patriarch of a deeply troubled family living in Connecticut in 1912. O’Neill’s semi-autobiographical portrait tackles all kinds of issues, including addiction and depression. The cast of this new London production also includes Patricia Clarkson, Laurie Kynaston, Daryl McCormack, and Louisa Harland.

It’s certainly not the first time that one of O’Neill’s acclaimed plays has been seen in London. Read all about his rich production history here, ahead of planning your trip to Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

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Beyond the Horizon

O’Neill’s 1920 play, which won that year’s Pulitzer Prize, premiered on Broadway at the Morosco Theatre. It’s about a family living on a farm, and two brother who swap destinies: one follows their uncle to sea, the other marries the girl next door.

It was revived at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate, playing in rep with a Tennessee Williams drama, Spring Storm. The cast featured Michael Malarkey, Michel Thomson, and Liz White. Laurie Samson’s production was well received, and subsequently transferred to the National Theatre for a run in 2010.

Anna Christie

Another Pulitzer Prize winner, O’Neill’s 1919 play about a prostitute trying to make a new life for herself first came to London in 1923. Arthur Hopkins’s production had its West End premiere at the Strand Theatre (now the Novello Theatre).

It wasn’t until 1989 that the play returned to London. David Thacker revived it at the Young Vic, starring the late Natasha Richardson – who then reprised her performance on Broadway a few years later with Liam Neeson, who became her husband.

Most recently, Ruth Wilson and Jude Law led a production at the Donmar Warehouse in 2011, directed by Rob Ashford. It won the 2012 Olivier Award for Best Revival.

The Emperor Jones

O’Neill’s experimental tragic play about an African-American man who kills someone and flees to a Caribbean island, where he establishes himself as ruler, premiered in New York in 1920 and was a big box-office hit.

It came to the Ambassadors Theatre in the West End in 1925, with Paul Robeson in the lead role.

Thea Sharrock directed a revival of the play at the Gate Theatre in 2005, and then took it to the National Theatre in 2007 – led by Patterson Joseph.

The Hairy Ape

In this expressionistic work, O’Neill explores the journey of an initially proud stoker on an ocean liner who goes into crisis when a wealthy socialite calls him a “filthy beast”. It’s a powerful study of class, capitalism, and alienation.

The Hairy Ape premiered in 1922, directed by Robert Edmond Jones and starring Louis Wolheim. It came to London in 1931, led by Paul Robeson, where it was critically acclaimed but only ran for five performances.

It fared better in 1986-7 in Peter Stein’s production at the National Theatre, and again in 2012 at the Southwark Playhouse, starring Bill Ward and directed by Kate Budgen.

All God’s Chillun Got Wings

Named for an African-American spiritual, O’Neill’s controversial 1924 play explored the fraught marriage between a Black man and an abusive white woman.

Some decades after its New York debut, it came to London via a Royal Shakespeare Company revival, playing at the Almeida Theatre for a couple of nights in 1989. It starred Patrick Robinson and Caroline Harding, directed by Stephen Rayne.

Desire Under the Elms

Greek myth meets New England in O’Neill’s ambitious 1924 play about three brothers in the late 19th century warring over the future of their family farm. It’s loosely inspired by the tale of Theseus, Phaedra, and Hippolyta.

Desire Under the Elms was a Broadway success, and it later came to the Westminster Theatre (now the site of The Other Palace) in 1940, directed by David Homan. It starred Stephen Murray, Mark Dignam, Beatrix Lehmann, and George Woodbridge.

The Great God Brown

O’Neill’s 1926 experiment with masks, this work played with identity as two different men hid their real selves behind masks – with tragic consequences.

It only had a two-night run in London in 1927, at the Strand Theatre (now the Novello Theatre), with John Gielgud starring and Peter Godfrey directing.

Strange Interlude

This bold Pulitzer-winning experiment is a big ask for producers. It has nine acts, running at about six hours, features stream-of-consciousness soliloquies, and covers topics like mental illness, sex, and abortion – which led to it being banned in many cities when it first appeared in 1928.

Still, it ran on Broadway for 17 months, and then did just over two months in the West End in 1930, at the Lyric Theatre.

More recently, Glenda Jackson and Brian Cox led a cut-down version on Broadway and then in London, in 1984 – the latter at the Duke of York’s Theatre – and then Anne-Marie Duff starred in Simon Godwin’s acclaimed National Theatre revival in 2013.

Mourning Becomes Electra

Another epic, and another reworking of Greek tragedy, this 1931 play cycle takes characters from the Oresteia and maps them onto a new trilogy set during the American Civil War – but exploring many of the same themes, such as the vicious cycle of revenge.

Following its year-long Broadway premiere run, it was also well-received in London, playing at the Westminster Theatre from 1937-8. Mourning Becomes Electra returned to the West End in 1955, with Peter Hall directing a revival at the Arts Theatre.

Val May helmed another London production at the Old Vic in 1961, and in 2003-4, Howard Davies directed a cast that included Helen Mirren, Eve Best, Paul McGann, Clarke Peters, Lucian Msamati, and Tim Pigott-Smith at the National Theatre – winning an Olivier Award.

Ah, Wilderness!

As the exclamation mark suggests, this was a rare foray into comedy by O’Neill. His 1933 work about a Connecticut clan is a sweet coming-of-age tale – and, gasp, actually features a happy family.

It transferred from Broadway to the West End in 1936 for a short run at the Westminster Theatre and then the Ambassadors Theatre, directed by Denis Johnston.

The Iceman Cometh

One of O’Neill’s most famous plays, The Iceman Cometh centres on a Greenwich Village saloon and a group of dead-end alcoholics. Salesman Hickey, a reformed party animal, disrupts the status quo by trying to sell them on sobriety, and some then attempt to change their lives – but it’s later revealed that Hickey is a changed man because he murdered his wife.

The play premiered on Broadway in 1946, and came to London in 1958, playing at the Arts Theatre and then the Winter Garden Theatre (now the Gillian Lynne Theatre), directed by Peter Wood.

Howard Davies’s RSC production came to the Aldwych Theatre in 1976, featuring Alan Tilvern, Bob Hoskins, Kenneth Cranham, and Patrick Stewart. Four years later, in 1980, Bill Bryden directed a revival at the National Theatre.

In 1997, Davies helmed another version of the play at the Almeida Theatre, this time with Kevin Spacey in the lead role of Hickey. The cast also featured Mark Strong, Clarke Peters, Tim Piggot-Smith, and Rupert Graves.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Remarkably for such a celebrated American work, Long Day’s Journey Into Night actually premiered at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Sweden in 1956. It then came to Boston later that year, and finally to Broadway, directed by José Quintero.

British audiences first got to see it in 1958, when it played in Edinburgh and then transferred to the Globe Theatre (now the Gielgud Theatre) in the West End. Quintero directed once again, and the cast featured Anthony Quayle, Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, Ian Bannen, Alan Bates, and Etain O’Dell.

There was an acclaimed revival of the play in 1971 at the National Theatre, directed by Michael Blakemore and starring Laurence Olivier. The production was filmed and broadcast in 1973: Olivier won an Emmy for his performance.

The National helmed another revival in 1991, co-producing with the Bristol Old Vic. This time, Timothy West, Prunella Scales, and Stephen Dillane were among the cast, directed by Howard Davies.

In 2000, Long Day’s Journey Into Night hit the West End again with a starry company: Jessica Lange, Charles Dance, Paul Rudd, Paul Nicholls, and Olivia Colman. Robin Phillips directed this Lyric Theatre production.

Poirot cracked the case in 2011-12, with David Suchet headlining another West End run. Joining him in this Apollo Theatre revival, directed by Anthony Page, were Laurie Metcalf, Trevor White, Rosie Sansom, and Kyle Soller.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night was most recently seen in London at the Wyndham’s Theatre in 2018. Richard Eyre’s acclaimed production was led by the titanic pair of Lesley Manville and Jeremy Irons.

Now, this Pulitzer-winning play is back in the West End, starring Brian Cox (Succession), Patricia Clarkson (Sharp Objects), Laurie Kynaston (Fool Me Once), Daryl McCormack (Good Luck to You, Leo Grande), and Louisa Harland (Derry Girls). This Wyndham’s Theatre production is directed by Jeremy Herrin (Best of Enemies).

A Moon for the Misbegotten

O’Neill finished this sequel to Long Day’s Journey Into Night in 1943, as his health was failing. It had an out-of-town premiere in Ohio in 1947, and finally came to Broadway a decade later.

The play came to the Arts Theatre in London in 1960, directed by Clifford Williams, and then the Riverside Studios in 1983; David Leveaux directed a cast led by Ian Bannen and Frances de la Tour.

In 2006, Kevin Spacey, Eve Best, and Colm Meaney starred in Howard Davies’s revival at the Old Vic, which subsequently transferred to Broadway.

A Touch of the Poet

O’Neill completed A Touch of the Poet in 1942, but it wasn’t until 1958 that it had its posthumous premiere on Broadway. Centring on an ageing pub owner in 19th-century Massachusetts, it was intended to be part of a grand cycle of nine plays.

London audiences got their first experience of it in 1987, when David Thacker directed a Young Vic production starring Vanessa Redgrave and Timothy Dalton. It was well received and transferred to the Comedy Theatre (now the Harold Pinter Theatre) in the West End.

Don’t miss the latest Eugene O’Neill London production: book Long Day’s Journey Into Night tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: the cast of Long Day's Journey Into Night. (Photo coutesy of production)

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