Behind The Scenes – ‘Hughie’ by Eugene O’Neill

New Venture Theatre  (19th April 2017)

In Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Hughie’, New York is on the cusp of the Great Depression; in its seedy underbelly, small-time gambler Erie is crawling back into his hotel after nights of drunken mourning. The Night-Clerk would rather be somewhere (and someone) else, but to his horror he finds that Erie has many tales to tell. This is a completely honest exploration of a friendship between two people, one of whom is an inveterate liar, and the struggle to make new connections when we feel alone.

O’Neill himself was born in a New York hotel room in October 1888. The first American playwright to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, he may be best known for 1946 drama ‘The Iceman Cometh’.

O’Neill wrote Hughie as one of a series of short plays with the theme of eulogies, a collection titled “By Way of Orbit”. For unknown reasons the writer chose to burn all manuscripts of these eight plays, bar one.

I found Hughie while searching for plays that could fit some very specific requirements; a two hander by a well-regarded playwright of the 19th or 20th century, with a script of substantial monologues. This turned out to be harder than expected. Our Artistic Director Rod Lewis suggested that I work with Mark Wilson to help me develop and gain experience as a director and we all agreed that the ideal play would allow us to delve deeply into a line-by-line study with our actors. My thanks go to Mark for being an invaluable source of advice and wisdom during planning, casting and rehearsals. We hope that in this production we have set down a framework to help nurture many more new directors at New Venture Theatre.

Right from the start we knew that we needed actors prepared to go on this journey with us, to explore in-depth exactly who these characters are and what their meeting means. We found just what we were looking for in Steve Mallen and Simon Messingham. In addition to being excellent actors they are also my collaborators and if you see directorial choices that you like in this play, then please thank them also. I must also thank Sophie, Leanne, Annique and all of our dedicated and talented crew for supporting us and being an integral part of this performance.

By placing Erie, the Night Clerk and indeed Hughie himself under a microscope, we found what these characters were all looking for at 3am on a dark night in the city: connection to other people. Dan Walker – Director