Eugene O’Neill’s hit play Desire Under the Elms arrives with a bang at the Crucible in Sheffield with a packed performance.

When entering the Crucible, the layout of the stage and seating is immediately immersive. No detail is missed with regard to the mise-en-scène: the sand floors, real barley, birdsong as you enter and the use of candlelight are seemingly small touches which make a vast difference to the realistic feeling of being in a rustic countryside.

The play brings all conventions of a Greek tragedy to a rural setting in 19th century New England. Although it may take time for some viewers to accustom to the language used, the cast deliver the dialect almost perfectly. O’Neill’s use of Greek tragedy is seen in the play through tumultuous family relationships, fate and human passion. The play tackles serious issues such as immigration, the California gold rush and politics of the time, all without difficulty.

The somewhat slow starting play becomes more fast-paced and exciting by the second act. Drama, tension and a sprinkling of humour are portrayed throughout. When telling such a provocative story, it is a challenge to set the tone appropriately but they did just that. Transitioning from grief to desire to deceit in such a short space of time through the entirety of the play really showed the serious talent of the performers.

The celebrated cast deserved all the rapturous applause they received as their performance was nothing less than tremendous. Theo Ogundipe (Peter) and Sule Rime (Simeon) really brought forth high-spirited energy and enthusiasm to their roles. Aoife Duffin (Abbie) and Michael Shea (Eben) conveyed emotion that leave you struck by their onstage chemistry and Matthew Kelly (Ephraim) aids with his palpable cold presence to the telling of the story.

Desire Under the Elms was an all round success with little room for improvement.

Desire Under the Elms runs from 21st September to 14th October with accessible performances running throughout.

Photo [top] features Aoife Duffin playing Abbie Putnam. Credit: Marc Brenner.


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