The transposition occurs again in Shared Experience's new touring production of Eugene O'Neill's brooding tragedy Desire Under the Elms. But fears that this is hardening into cliche are soon stifled. By moving the play from a farm in 19th-century New England to one in middish-20th-century Ireland, Polly Teale has solved some of the recalcitrant practical problems presented by O'Neill's style.
Here, as in all his plays, we have that extraordinarily urgent and febrile intensity, and, as in many of them, his insistence on colloquial American speech. English actors attempting this are likely to put the audience in mind of the "hornswoggled" idiom of Gabby Hayes and Calamity Jane, and transposing it to old England is unthinkable. But deepest Ireland, a place of remorseless labour marked by the migration that is such a potent image in the play, offers both historical plausibility and, vitally, actors who can be at home in its voice.
For example, these formidable, preacherly lines of praise from old Ephraim Cabot to Abbie, his new young wife -"Yew air my Rose o' Sharon! Behold yew air fair; yer eyes air doves" - are utterly convincing in Robin Thomson's accent. Indeed in the mouths of all five actors, O'Neill's lines sound as if they were written exactly for the Irish voice.
O'Neill's directions also emphasise the characters' highly demonstrative movement, the jovial, ox-like jostling of the brothers Peter and Simeon, for instance, which Ged McKenna and Gary Lilburn have perfectly. The two illicit lovers, Abbie and her youngest stepson Eben, must first express their yearning in dumb-show as they are separated by Ephraim's walls. Gabrielle Reidy and Jonathan Cullen, stretching sensually towards each other, represent the enormous, erotic pressure of their suppressed desire. There is another powerfully sensual image when Reidy and Teale transform the scene-closing stage-direction, "Abbie is washing the dishes", by having her pour a slow stream of water, glittering in Chris Davey's fine concentrated lighting, down from the tip of her upstretched arm.
The company's slender resources require some confusing doubling in the frenetic party scene, but this is a fine, involving production.
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