O'Neill's play is a harrowing haul through the self-destructive tendencies and "artistic" temperaments of a one-time star actor and his family of addicts - Momma is a dope fiend, son and heir's a dipso, baby bro's consumptive, and Papa is responsible. The bottle's always within reach and collective avoidance is high (usually as a kite) on the agenda. Anything to take away the nasty taste of truth and failed expectations. Laing's re-make drags things into the TV age. Indeed, patriarch Tyrone - played magnificently as a louche, chain-smoking has-been by Laurence Rudic - can barely tear his uncomprehending eyes away from the portable in the corner, across which flickers the current crop of untouchable icons and idols.
The Boys, bitter Jamie and sick boy Edmund, complement this perfectly, displaying all the pampered slacker brattishness of a generation in a state of ontological flux. This jars occasionally, but where the text is seemingly at odds with the current fetishisation of drug culture, it also raises the spectre of Aids, which could be swapped seamlessly for consumption here.
There's more sickness to be had in Jon Pope's Dracula, which again plumps for modern dress and post-modern platitudes, and seems to be addressing issues of migrancy and statelessness in the context of the former Eastern Europe. All quite feasible, yet it chucks in so much space-filling flourish as to end up looking a little daft.
Presenting Jonathan Harker as a thirtysomething estate agent jet-setter might say something about western consumerism, with Stuart Bowman's pasty- faced and thrusting Nosferatu wanting a piece of the action - that piece being Harker's yuppy wifelet Lucy - but appears shallow, making one think of coffee and jeans again.
Bowman aside, the actors are largely left floundering, rendered little more than powerless marionettes serving a "higher" visual concept, and it's telling that Pope is designer as well as director. He might be capable of both, but a good editor he isn't. To be fair, the assorted trick or treatery on offer - blood bags, dry ice, etc - is never dull, while Bowman swoops and slithers his way through things with giddy abandon. His deflowering of Lucy, allowing her really to vamp it up, is as shockingly brutal as any rape.
What both productions succeed in though, is conveying that society is sick. Not in the way the knee-jerk shock-horror moral minority would have us believe, for they offer reasons rather than value judgements, but sick nevertheless.
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