Strange Interlude is definitely strange, and quite a long interlude, but enjoyable. I was reassured on setting out that the Guardian review said it was surprisingly funny, and so it proved. I don’t know how far O’Neill intended it to be so, but line after line of melodrama (and Freud) that would be unwatchable played straight can be made moving by acknowledging that the whole thing is simultaneously preposterous and serious*. Somehow it works. I suspect a large dollop of that somehow is down to the strong acting. The central character of Nina (Anne-Marie Duff), driven mad by grief because she didn’t sleep with her fiancée the night before he went off to WWI, hangs together on acting alone, convincing in the moment. Charles Edwards plays repressed suitor Charles as a cross between Niles Crane and Henry James.
It would be interesting to see it done with a gothic aesthetic, which I can also imagine turning the melodrama to something that works, but in a very different way. It struck me on the way home that it is a work that is massively ‘of its time’ not simply because of the Freudianism, or the WWI legacy, but because at the end Nina’s son is of the age to go off and get killed in WWII, but of course he doesn’t because it is written in 1923 and so the text is deprived of that final irony.
*Possibly this is intended to be the message in a “just like life” sort of way.