Trio of Eugene O'Neill's one-act plays The El Train - reviews

The El Train

Ruth Wilson and Sam Yates create a 'spellbinding' evening of fine acting and atmospheric music

LAST UPDATED AT 08:27 ON Thu 19 Dec 2013
What you need to know

Critics are praising a trio of short dramas by Eugene O'Neill, The El Train at Hoxton Hall, as "spellbinding" and "savagely compelling". The three one-act plays (The Web, Before Breakfast and The Dreamy Kid) feature performances and direction by Ruth Wilson (Luther, The Lone Ranger).

Set in a New York tenement block in the pre-prohibition era, the plays about the disappointed wife of a failed poet, a prostitute rescued from her pimp and a desperate gangster visiting his grandmother's deathbed, deal with themes of sin and redemption. Wilson stars in The Web and Before Breakfast, directed by Sam Yates, and makes her directorial debut with The Dreamy Kid. Hoxton Hall, London, until 30 December.

What the critics like

In these tales of desperation, every moment pulses with life, says Sam Marlowe in The Times. Wilson and fellow director Sam Yates, create three crises in three wretched rooms, each "intoxicating and savagely compelling".

The El Train is "the perfect Christmas treat, if your tastes run to something darker than panto", says Jane Shilling in the Daily Telegraph. The performances are remarkable, the staging bleakly beautiful and the original score by Alex Baranowski sensational.

Wilson and Yates join forces for a "spellbinding evening" of fine acting and atmospheric music, says Michael Billington in The Guardian. Wilson's performances are "breathtakingly good", and the play she directs is gripping.

What they don't like

The tone of overwrought emotion is unvarying and "a leavening shaft of humour would have worked a treat", says Fiona Mountford in the Evening Standard.

And for a fringe production with uncomfortable seats - albeit with a very snazzy pop-up cocktail bar attached - the average ticket price of £45 is a bit much. · 

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