The Hairy Ape

Previewed 17 October 2015, Opened 29 October 2015, Closed 21 November 2015 at the Old Vic Theatre in London

A major revival of Eugene O'Neill's play The Hairy Ape in London directed by Richard Jones.

The story of Yank, a labourer who revels in his status as the strongest stoker on a transatlantic ocean liner. But when Yank is called a 'filthy beast' by the overbred daughter of a steel merchant, he experiences an awakening of consciousness that leads him on a journey through the wealthy neighbourhoods and disenfranchised underbelly of New York society. Searching for a way to belong, Yank is forced to confront primal questions about his true place in the world. This classic expressionist masterpiece presents questions over both class and identity.

Cast features Bertie Carvel as 'Robert 'Yank' Smith' with Christopher Akrill, Adam Burton, Charlie Cameron, Okorie Chukwu, Buffy Davis, Callum Dixon, Phil Hill, Elan James, Nicholas Karimi, Ben Lee, Oliver Llewellyn-Jenkins, Luke Murphy, Steffan Rhodri and Rosie Sheehy. Directed by Richard Jones with choreography by Aletta Collins, designs by Stewart Laing, lighting by Mimi Jordan Sherin and sound by Sarah Angliss. Richard Jones' West End credits include the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods starring Julia McKenzie at the Phoenix Theatre in 1990. Recent revivals of Eugene O’Neill's plays include Long Day's Journey Into Night starring David Suchet at the Apollo Theatre in 2012 and A Moon for the Misbegotten starring Kevin Space at the Old Vic Theatre in 2006.

When this production opened here at the Old Vic Theatre in October 2015, Michael Billington in the Guardian explained that "Eugene OíNeillís 1922 play is a devil to stage. But Richard Jonesís production succeeds by treating the play for what it is: a stunning expressionist spectacle in which images count as much as words..." comcluding that this is "a rare and exhilarating revival of a play that shows the ability of expressionism to pin down theencaged isolation of the eternally oppressed." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail thought that "Eugene O'Neill's imaginative tale could have been highly topical, given the travails of our steel industry... Alas, this production is a mess... When you leave a show suspecting it might have been more interesting simply to read the play, theatre has a problem." Neil Norman in the Daily Express said it was "raw, visceral, primitive yet powerful in its capitalism-versus-workforce argument, it gives a voice to the inarticulate... The overall impact is considerable and its anti- intellectual theatricality delivers a high voltage shock to the system that left me buzzing for days." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote that "it's a puzzle why this production of The Hairy Ape doesn't really work because class politics still do matter and I can see, although I could not feel in my gut, that the actor Bertie Carvel is the embodiment of Yank." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times praised it as being "as contemporary a century on as when it was written." Paul Taylor in the Independent commented that "when Richard Jones is good, he's very very good and when bad, horrid. In this disappointing excursion, he's neither." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard described how "from the opening moments Richard Jones's production is bold, combining raw muscularity with a finesse thatís almost balletic... All of this is achieved with great visual flair. But there are problems with inaudibility."

"Eugene O'Neill's drama maintains a tense equilibrium between mechanism and humanity. His characters are 'types'... Nevertheless, they resonate with unstereotypical emotions of rage, longing and distress. Director Richard Jones tackles this formidable balancing act with verve, drawing ensemble work of magnificent assurance from his cast and production team... Jones's direction steers a precisely calibrated course between O'Neill's broad vision of a society dehumanised by the gap between rich and poor, and his characters' own tragedies. The cast portray both the men in the stokehold and the heartless socialites of Fifth Avenue, emerging sanctimonious from Sunday morning church service, with captivating conviction." The Sunday Telegraph

"Director Richard Jones brings The Hairy Ape storming into the theatre, with a blazing performance from Bertie Carvel, and an unforgettable frieze of images... This is operatic theatre. It is not perfectly spoken: let me rephrase that; large early stretches are inaudible. Even superb Bertie Carvel is muffled by his grunting naturalism. Yet there is never any doubt about what is happening, or what is being felt. Carvel has particularly strong support from Steffan Rhodri and Buffy Davis. He yet again proves himself among our top-ranking actors." The Observer

"Revolutionary in the 1920s, the play is now irredeemably dated, simplistic, one-dimensional and condescending. Its current revival is of interest only as a historical curio and a vehicle for director Richard Jones's trademark expressionism, which is for once well suited to the material... In the title role Bertie Carvel, although a brooding, muscular presence, fatally blurs the line between the inarticulate and the incomprehensible, so that his final humiliation in a gorilla cage at the zoo comes not a moment too soon." The Sunday Express

"This thin, ambitious play, with top notes of urban alienation, offers strikingly angry rhythms and an invitation to assertive staging. The director, Richard Jones, creates stunningly poised tableaux; Stewart Laing's set confines the stokers in a long banana-yellow crate, lit in blaring scarlet and green. Stripped to the waist and shiny with booze, grease and sweat, their handprints smear the walls. Another caged beast dominates the final scene - a casualty of the human zoo." The Sunday Times

The Hairy Ape in London at the Old Vic Theatre with previewed from 17 October 2015, opened on 29 October 2015 and closed on 21 November 2015.