Mourning Becomes Electra

Play by Eugene O'Neill. In New England just after the Civil War, Ezra Mannon's return from the field of battle sweeps an entire family into a violent spiral of revenge. A passionate tornado of a play exploring the wildly destructive forces of jealousy and desire unleashed when Lavinia discovers that her mother, the intoxicating Christine Mannon, has dared to take a young lover. It's as if love drove me on to do everything I shouldn't. I never should have brought you to this house. But I loved you too much. I wanted you every possible moment we could steal! Eugene O'Neill's mighty epic is based on Aeschylus' Oresteia.

1937: West End London Premiere at the Westminster and New Theatres

1955: London Revival at the Arts Theatre

1961: 1st West End Revival at the Old Vic Theatre

1967: London Revival at the Arts Theatre

2003: London Revival at the National Theatre

Eugene O'Neill's plays seen in London include Long Day's Journey Into Night, The Iceman Cometh, A Moon for the Misbegotten, and The Hairy Ape.

1937: West End London Premiere at the Westminster and New Theatres

Opened 19 November 1937 (no previews), Closed 15 January 1938 at the Westminster Theatre
Transferred 19 January 1938, Closed 26 March 1938 at the New Theatre (now Noel Coward Theatre)

The cast at the Westminster Theatre and the New Theatre featured Mark Dignam as 'Brigadier-General Ezra Mannon', Laura Cowie as 'Christine Mannon', Beatrix Lehmann as 'Lavinia Mannon', Robert Harris as 'Orin Mannon',Reginald Tate as 'Captain Adam Brant', John Ford as 'Captain Peter Niles', Jean Winstanley as 'Hazel Niles', John Abbott as 'Seth Beckwith' (Westminster), William Devlin as 'Seth Beckwith' (New), Craighall Sherry as 'Amos Ames', Enid Price Hill as 'Louisa Ames', Frank Napier as 'Dr Joseph Blake'/'Ira Mackel' (Westminster), Basil Dignam as 'Dr Joseph Blake'/'Ira Mackel' (New), Jean Moncrieff as 'Emma', Mona Washbourne as 'Minnie'/'Mrs Hills', Philip Godfrey as 'Josiah Borden'/'Chantyman', Reyner Barton as 'Reverend Everett Hills'/'Joe Silva', and Waldo Wright as 'Abner Small'.

Directed by Michael MacOwan, with designs by Peter Goffin.

This production proved to be an unexpected hit. The season at the Westminster Theatre was extended, and then the play transferred to the New Theatre.

1955: London Revival at the Arts Theatre

Opened 9 June 1955 (no previews), Closed 31 July 1955 at the Arts Theatre

The cast featured John Phillips as 'Brigadier-General Ezra Marmon', Mary Ellis as 'Christine Mannon', Mary Morris as 'Lavinia Mannon', Ronald Lewis as 'Orin Mannon', Joseph O'Conor as 'Captain Adam Brant', David Yates as 'Captain Peter Niles', Anne Bishop as 'Hazel Niles', Beckett Bould as 'Seth Beckwith', Barbara New as 'Mrs Hills', Christie Humphrey as 'Minnie', Colin Ellis as 'Abner Small', Edward Harvey as 'Josiah Borden', Gillian Webb as 'Mrs Borden', Hamlyn Benson as 'Amos Ames', Joan Hart as 'Louisa Ames', John Kidd as 'Dr Joseph Blake', John Schlesinger as 'Reverend Everett Hills', Ronald Barker as 'Chantyman'/'Joe Silva', and Timothy Bateson as 'Ira Markel'.

Directed by Peter Hall, with designs by Paul Mayo.

1961: 1st West End Revival at the Old Vic Theatre

Opened 21 November 1961 (no previews), Closed 2 December 1961 (in repertory) at the Old Vic

The cast featured Michael Goodliffe as 'Brigadier-General Ezra Marmon', Sonia Dresdel as 'Christine Mannon', Barbara Jefford as 'Lavinia Mannon', Stephen Moore as 'Orin Mannon', William Sylvester as 'Captain Adam Brant', Jerome Willis as 'Captain Peter Niles', Jane Downs as 'Hazel Niles', William McAllister as 'Seth Beckwith', Carol Macready as 'Mrs Hills', Leader Hawkins as 'Amos Ames', Rosemarie Dunham as 'Louisa Ames', Sylvia Coleridge as 'Minnie', Vernon Dobtcheff as 'Abner Small', and Victor Winding as 'Reverend Everett Hills'.

Directed by Val May, with designs by Leslie Hurry, and music by John Lambert.

Prior to this revival opening, the Old Vic Theatre hosted a visit by the Oxford Playhouse Company who presented a revival of Aeschylus' The Oresteia Trilogy from 7 to 18 November 1961.

Immediately prior to London's West End this production, with the same cast, was presented for a short season at the Bradford Alhambra Theatre, and the Manchester Opera House.

1967: London Revival at the Arts Theatre

Opened 27 June 1967 (no previews), Closed 2 July 1967 at the Arts Theatre

The cast featured Michael Barrington as 'Brigadier-General Ezra Mannon', Judy Campbell as 'Christine Mannon', Valerie Sarruf as 'Lavinia Mannon', John Fraser as 'Orin Mannon', Michael Murray as 'Captain Adam Brant', Peter Harlowe as 'Captain Peter Niles', Corinna Marlowe as 'Hazel Niles', Thick Wilson as 'Seth Beckwith'/'Chantyman', Gilly McIver as 'Louisa Ames'/'Mrs Borden', Judy Wilson as 'Minnie'/'Mrs Hills', Paul Tomlinson as 'Amos Ames'/'Josiah Borden', and Saam Dastoor as 'Abner Small'/'Dr Joseph Blake'.

Directed by Gordon McDougall, with designs by Catherine MacGregor.

Presented by the Traverse Theatre Club, Edinburgh.

Following performances in London, this production was due to play at the Baalbek Festival in Lebanon in July 1967, but due to the 1967 Six-Day War, the visit was postponed until the following year. The production was then staged in Edinburgh at the Church Hill Theatre from Monday 2 to Saturday 7 September 1968 as part of the Edinburgh Festival.

2003: London Revival at the National Theatre

Previewed 17 November 2003, Opened 27 November 2003, Closed 31 January 2004 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre

A major revival of Eugene O'Neill's Mourning Becomes Electra in London starring Helen Mirren and Eve Best

The cast featured Tim Pigott-Smith as 'Brigadier General Ezra Mannon', Helen Mirren as 'Christine Mannon', Eve Best as 'Lavinia Mannon', Paul Hilton as 'Orin Mannon', Paul McGann as 'Captain Adam Brant', Dominic Rowan as 'Captain Peter Niles', Rebecca Johnson as 'Hazel Niles', Clarke Peters as 'Sam Beckwith'/'Chantyman', Beverley Longhurst as 'Emma Borden', Felix Dexter as 'Abner Small', James Smith as 'Dr Joseph Blake', Karen Archer as 'Mrs Hills', Lucian Msamati as 'Ira Mackrel', Maxine Howe as 'Minnie', Peter Eastland as 'Josiah Borden', Rebecca Lenkiewicz as 'Louise Ames', Simon Merrells as 'Reverend Everett Hills', Thomas Arnold as 'Amos Ames', and Trevor Thomas as 'Joe Silva'.

Directed by Howard Davies, with movement by Stuart Hopps, designs by Bob Crowley, lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Dominic Muldowney, and sound by Christopher Shutt.

"You could cook a Christmas pudding in the time it takes to sit through Eugene O'Neill's 1931 play. But bum-numbing though it may sound, the time flies by... Tragedy piles on tragedy in this field day of Freudian feuding. Magnificently performed by an excellent cast, the young Eve Best is deeply moving as the puritanical daughter Lavinia, and Paul Hilton is terrific as her demented brother Orin, a neurotic whose final crack-up is, as scary as it's vivid. Helen Mirren is fab too - sexy, passionate and tinged with evil. In the end she's so grief-stricken, your heart breaks for her. Some will compare this compelling saga from the grandaddy of American playwrights to a high-class soap - but so what? By the end you come out tingling all over. With its stately mansion design (the pillared set by Bob Crowley is a masterpiece) and superb direction by Howard Davies, this is one of the year's unmissable theatre events." The Daily Express

"Four and a half hours of re1entless anguish doesn't look like the ideal formula for a great night out. I can only report that I emerged from Howard Davies's electrifying staging of Mourning Becomes Electra feeling thrilled, and chilled, to the marrow. This epic drama gets you immediately in its grip and never lets go, the performances are shatteringly fine, and the sheer relentlessness of Eugene O'Neill's dark vision of fallen humanity becomes paradoxically exhilarating... Helen Mirren glows with mature sexual allure as the matriarch of the hellish clan... Eve Best is better still as her daughter... There is terrific work, too, from Paul Hilton as the increasingly deranged Orin... you will be both moved and spell-bound by this tremendous, no-holds-barred production." The Daily Telegraph

"Howard Davies's production sensibly restrains the decibel level of melodrama. Dame Helen's Christine, defiantly cool, camp and skittish, keeps the mood light - her displays of passion are alarmingly lukewarm. She welcomes home Ezra, her unloved brigadier husband with a dazzling display of artiflciality... The heavy pitch of this deceiving family tips towards the preposterously melodramatic. Yet when Dame Helen nonchalantly poisons Ezra, when Miss Best, initially behaving like some disturbed child, taunts her mother with the threat of exposure and Paul Hilton's superlative Orin visibly disintegrates after Chrlstine's suicide, they do convey a remarkable sense of a family driven by dark obsessions beyond their control or understanding... Mourning Becomes Electra, despite its fault-lines, imposes a fierce theatrical grip." The London Evening Standard

Mourning Becomes Electra in London at the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre previewed from 17 November 2003, opened on 27 November 2003, and closed on 31 January 2004 (in repertory)