Samuel John stars in A Long Day’s Journey Into The Night —a special commission for the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts. *Photo supplied
Samuel John stars in A Long Day’s Journey Into The Night —a special commission for the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts. *Photo supplied
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A Bermudian makes his return to the island to direct what he describes as the “the best American play I have come across”.

Now based in London, Timothy Trimingham Lee brings Nobel prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into The Night exclusively to the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts. 

The Pulizter Prize-winning play is an autobiographical story about a family in crisis battling with addiction and against each other. Set in 1912 in New London, Connecticut, Lee says he has tried to make the play accessible to a modern audience while remaining loyal to the original. 

“I decided not to become too constrained by period mannerisms or the decorum. For me theatre is not a museum — it should be a living, breathing arena. The play has an ageless quality because first and foremost O’Neill was writing about family — family patterns, family obsessions, curses, dynamics... We have created something that feels accessible to a modern audience and also captures the essence of that period in America.”

Lee said he thought Long Day’s Journey Into The Night is a perfect fit for Bermuda, not least because O’Neill lived here for three years and wrote the genesis of the play here. 

“He was seeing a psychiatrist about his early life and so he started writing the notes for what would become the play. It will speak clearly and with resonance for Bermudians. He loved the sea and Bermuda is surrounded by the sea it  — is very much a part of people’s lives here and informs the rhythms of the way people think and live. He was an avid swimmer and fancied himself a sailor. As a romantic, the sea was a very important influence for him. It just felt like a great match for the island. I was really surprised it had never been done here.”

Lee has directed numerous successful plays in the UK and US and his work has been nominated for two Off West End Awards. But for all the theatre credits he has racked up, he counts this play as his favourite to work on.

“It is very epic and large in scope and scale — I think it is exciting to bring a very big play to a very small island. It is an American family drama — to that end the play is about how
destiny gets mapped by your parents.

“On a dramatic level, what makes it unique is that it’s this microcosm of all of our lives and how guilt and regret play out in this cycle of blame and frustration, disappointment and hope. What makes it touching is how all the characters really love each other as family do but there is also strong bitterness and hatred tied to that. You see patterns in the universe just played out. I’ve directed a lot of plays and it is easily my favourite up there with Hamlet and Waiting For Godot.”