Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” | Photo by Lawrence Ho
If Shakespeare’s right and all the world’s a stage, all the men and women merely players, it would be awfully helpful if you didn’t forget your exits and entrances.
Oscar-winning actor Jeremy Irons, currently appearing with Oscar-nominated Lesley Manville at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Eugene O’Neill’s intense, autobiographical drama, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, believes the audience co-creates the theatrical experience.
“I’ve always thought a good production will be a conversation between what’s happening onstage and the members of the audience,” Irons tells me between LA rehearsals for the acclaimed Richard Eyre production of O’Neill’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. “Some audience members think they are merely watchers. They are not. They’re part of the conversation. They have to open up as we open up.”
Jeremy Irons and his dog Smudge backstage at the Wallis | Photo by Gail Eichenthal
Irons goes further: “Acting is 75 percent listening. If you really listen to what is happening, what’s being said to you—underneath the words— you automatically get to the right place to say your next line. A lot of young performers think acting is about being, about doing, about “acting”. It’s not. It’s about opening up. I think that’s what one should try to do in the theater.”
According to LA Times critic Charles McNulty, the conversation is sparkling in this surprisingly brisk production (by normal standards) of Long Day’s Journey Into Night. McNulty sites as the key reasons to see the Wallis production: Lesley Manville’s “breathtaking” performance as Mary Tyrone, a “a credible wife and mother imprisoned in addiction. The second is Jeremy Irons’ suave and subtle portrayal of (her husband) James Tyrone — one consummate actor stepping into the raffish skin of another.”
Jeremy Irons with KUSC’s Gail Eichenthal | Photo by Laura Stegman
Irons leapt to fame in 1981 when he starred in the glorious BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. For his film debut the same year in The French Lieutenant’s Woman, he grabbed a BAFTA nomination. His first Broadway appearance three years later opposite Glenn Close in The Real Thing, brought him a Tony. It’s hard to describe the thrill of seeing this beloved actor right there on an LA stage, killing it in this American theatrical masterwork.
Long Day’s Journey Into Night runs at the Wallis through July 1. Tickets and information are available at thewallis.org.
Hit play below to listen to our Arts Alive features with Jeremy Irons discussing Long Day’s Journey Into Night with KUSC’s Gail Eichenthal. To listen, just hit play below.