(New*) Pics: Set and props start arriving for the Cripple Of Inishmaan (is that Daniel Radcliffe's bed?)
"Bollocks about the Pause" - Harold Pinter platform at Trafalgar Studios

Review: Anne-Marie Duff in a Strange Interlude


Eugene O'Neill's epic play has been sliced down to 3 hours and 10 minutes (plus interval) from more than 4 hours for this National Theatre production. And it is a good job too, particularly if you are sitting in the backbreaking cheap seats in the first few rows at the Lyttleton where its being staged.

It does cover a lot of ground in its 3 hours and 10 minutes,  the life of Nina (Anne-Marie Duff) from a young woman mourning the loss of her lover in the First World War to a mother seeing her son head off to marry. But I confess, I'm not sure what they chopped out, never did it feel under developed or that there were holes in the plot development.

A Strange Interlude is at times rambling and bloated almost like O'Neill wanted to enjoy the sound of his own words in actors mouths but equally at others it focused and utterly gripping.

Nina is surrounded by men who dote on her: Charles (Charles Edwards) a father-like figure who secretly loves her; Edmund (Darren Pettie) her lover and Sam (Jason Watkins) her husband. They all think they know what is best for her but really are all dependant on her for their own happiness. Nina is an intriguing character self-obsessed, jealous and melodramatic and yet sacrifices much of her own freedom and happiness for the sake of others.

O'Neill has his characters tell the audience what they are really thinking so that there becomes a disconnect between their external and internal persona. The pure honesty of the vocalised internal voices is often humourous but equally displays an uglier side of mankind.

Anne-Marie Duff puts in a stunning performance in this marathon role and is ably supported by the male cast and while a very meaty play with much to mull over I would never for one moment say it wasn't long enough. It did feel long and would benefit from further trimming.

I'm really glad I've seen it but it's not a play I would rush to see another production of. I've ticked the Strange Interlude box.

Strange Interlude runs at the National's Lyttleton Theatre in rep until Aug 12.


Jason Watkins was in The Hour with Mr W