Lyric revives Eugene O'Neill's classic Desire Under the Elms

Oct 18, 2012

The sexual tension is palpable in this 'enthralling' production of O'Neill's rural tragedy

Lyric Theatre

What you need to know
A revival of Eugene O'Neill's 1924 play Desire Under the Elms, directed by Sean Holmes, has opened at the Lyric, Hammersmith. The
play was O'Neill's attempt to retell the Greek myth of Phaedra in a rural New England setting. O'Neill's plot involves an ageing, remarried widower Ephraim, whose young headstrong wife, Abbie, falls for his son Eben. Their passionate affair brings tragedy to the troubled family.

Finbar Lynch plays ageing farmer Ephraim and Morgan Watkins his son Eben. Denise Gough stars as the unfaithful Abbie.

Runs until 10 November.

What the critics like
This is a strange and remarkable play, says Laura Thompson in The Daily Telegraph. There's a "visceral and unremitting emotionalism" from the stunning cast - Denise Gough is "gloriously sensual" and Finbar Lynch "magnificent". At times "the sexual tension feels fit to explode".

Sean Holmes's production, echoing with melancholy bluegrass guitar, is enthralling, says Kate Bassett in The Independent. Denise Gough, with her big glinting eyes, is riveting as Abbie. The burning desire between her and Eben is "electrifying". Dominic Maxwell in The Times agrees: the passion between her Abbie and Eben is palpable from the off. When an all-female formation dance routine  raises the heat even higher, "this show feels indestructible".

What they don't like
Sean Holmes's production doesn't quite gel, says Ian Shuttleworth in The Financial Times. The accents are erratic and the choric
interpretive-dance sequence doesn't work. But it's still "an honourable addition to the British stage's ongoing rediscovery of O'Neill".

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