WHEN actor Mawgan Gyles steps out on stage tonight, he will be immersed in the toughest and most intense role of his career so far.

He will appear in Long Day’s Journey Into Night as Edmund Tyrone, a character based on the play’s writer Eugene O’Neill, at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, from tonight to Saturday, November 2.

Semi-autobiographical, the compelling drama tells the story of the Tyrone family as they face their demons over the course of a single day.

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.

Mawgan said: “He wanted to write a story about his family for most of his writing career.
“It took him an awful lot to do it.

“I heard stories that his notebooks were just saturated with tears. This was a huge, huge deal for him.

“Although he had written it, he didn’t want it to be published.

“It wasn’t until after he died that it was published.

“It’s been an amazing experience learning and reading about his life.”

Through the play, O’Neill shares — with uncompromising truth and honesty — the pain, anguish and guilt faced by his own family.

Mawgan, who left drama school in 2007, said: “It’s a very human story and it’s a true story.

“It’s a family dynamic, it’s about my character’s relationship with his brother, mother and father.

“There’s guilt and blame, resentment, regret and also my character is dying of consumption.

“He’s tried to commit suicide in the past.

“His mother is a morphine addict so he kind of resents her and blames his father.

“The play ends in a kind of crescendo of poetry and emotion.

“I think people will have a cathartic experience but I don’t think they will be depressed.

“I think they will have definitely experienced something that they have possibly never experienced.”

Widely considered to be his masterwork, O'Neill posthumously received the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Describing the play in an inscription to his wife Carlotta, O’Neill calls it a “journey into light — into love”.

As well as rehearsing for the role of Edmund, Mawgan is appearing at the Octagon in An Inspector Calls, as Eric Birling, which runs until Saturday.

He said: “It’s quite intense.

“I think just doing Long Day’s Journey Into Night is hard work in itself.

“It’s the toughest part I’ve ever played.

“The emotional journey the character goes on, you can’t not commit to it otherwise it’s just going to be superficial.”

Speaking of the two plays, Mawgan, who will also appear in Twelfth Night and Hobson’s Choice later in the season, said: “They are both set in 1912, they are both about family units.

“I think An Inspector Calls is far less realistic and it’s got a clear political stance.

“It’s a metaphor whereas Long Day’s Journey Into Night is just an honest account of a day of Eugene O'Neill’s family where everything is culminating.”

Director David Thacker, the Octagon’s artistic director, said: “I think that Long Day’s Journey Into Night will resonate with our audiences. It is a very gripping play, incredibly thought-provoking and widely regarded as one of the greatest American plays ever written.”

Brian Protheroe, Margot Leicester, Kieran Hill and Jessica Baglow — who are also currently cast in An Inspector Calls — will appear in Long Day’s Journey Into Night.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night is at the Octagon from tonight to Saturday, November 2. Tickets cost from £9 to £24, phone 01204 520661 or visit octagonbolton.co.uk.