Actor and musician Brian Protheroe relishes role in Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Octagon
AN actor and musician is relishing playing one of the meatiest roles in the world of theatre in Bolton.
Brian Protheroe, who released three albums in the 1970s as part of Folk Blues Incorporated (FBI), plays James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Octagon.
The 69-year-old, who also appeared as a co-pilot in the 1978 film Superman, starring Christopher Reeve, heads up the dysfunctional Tyrone family as they face their demons over the course of a single day.
The semi-autobiographical drama, by American playwright Eugene O’Neill, runs at the theatre until November 2.
Mr Protheroe said: “James Tyrone is the head of the household.
“The mother has become a drug addict because she was given morphine in child birth and became addicted to it and couldn’t get off it.
“The other three characters, they are all virtually alcoholics.
“It’s not the cheeriest piece in the world but it’s very compelling.
“It’s a great part to play.”
The play, which launched at the theatre on October 10, is said to be one of the seminal plays of the 20th century but Mr Protheroe admits the production — which is three hours and 10 minutes, with an interval — will not be to everyone’s taste. Mr Protheroe, who played Arthur Birling in the Octagon’s first production of this season, An Inspector Calls, said: “Some people say that it’s too long, that they preferred An Inspector Calls but the people that I’ve spoken to have enjoyed in enormously.
“It’s a very powerful, moving piece about family.
“You get some audiences who get the humour of the play and they are usually older people who’ve had long-term relationships and see the humour in some of the relationships.
“It depends on your family background. It varies.
“The people who do get something out of it get a great deal out of it because it’s a rich and extraordinary drama because it’s based on reality.
“That sort of makes it more powerful in a way because it’s been written directly from the writer’s own experiences but some people don’t like that.
“Some people prefer more lightweight entertainment so this wouldn’t be for them.”
Mr Protheroe, who appeared in the original stage musical version of The Lord of the Rings at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, learnt the parts of both Arthur Birling and James Tyrone at the same time and will return to the Octagon in March for This May Hurt a Bit. He said: “Luckily I had plenty of time to learn both parts.
“I knew that if I didn’t learn both parts before we started An Inspector Calls, I wouldn’t get the job done.
“They are so massive, the one I’m playing now, James Tyrone, is one of the biggest parts in theatre in sheer length.
“The sheer number of lines you have to learn is huge.”
It is a role he had his heart set on playing for a number of years.
He said: “I didn’t see the Laurence Olivier production which was about 1992 at the Old Vic but I saw a review of it then I read the play and became very attracted to it.
“I’m very fond and familiar with American drama and this is the great daddy of them all.”
Written by O’Neill in the early 1940s but not published until after his death in 1956, it is said his notebooks from writing the play were found saturated with teardrops.
What does Mr Protheroe think the writer would make of the productions which followed his death? He said: “He probably would find it very difficult to see because it was so personal to him.
“I do not think it could possibly match up to the expectations he had. The writing of it was a cathartic experience.”
Calling the experience terrific but also hard work, the Wiltshire-born actor is relishing appearing in front of Octagon audiences.
He added: “The only thing is I miss my family, I’ve got a seven-year-old grandson and I miss my wife. After 36 years together, we got married last year.
“That’s the only thing about being away from home.”
Long Day’s Journey Into Night is at The Octagon until November 2.
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