Year: 1984

Title of the play: Strange Interlude

Author: Eugene O’Neill

Director: Keith Hack

Others in the Cast: Glenda Jackson, Tom Aldredge, Brian Cox, James Hazeldine, Elizabeth Lawrence, Patrick Wilcox, Caitlin Clarke, Charley Lang.
Movie cast: Glenda Jackson, Elizabeth Kelly, David Dukes, Julie Eccles, José Ferrer, Rosemary Harris, Ken Howard, Kenneth Branagh


Theatre and location: Theatre Royal, Nottingham

Other productions of the same play:  1985 - Nederlander Theatre, New York. Made into a movie in 1988, directed by Herbert Wise  

Plot summary: Nina’s boyfriend, a fighter plane ace, is killed in a dog fight, and she becomes a slutty angel of mercy, sleeping with every hero as a surrogate for Gordon. Her doctor advises her to marry mutual friend Sam and have his baby. But it turns out Sam has a history of mental illness, so his mother asks Nina to have an abortion and have a child by a normal man. She chooses her psychiatrist, who falls in love with her. On the sidelines is faithful friend Charles who has loved her for years.

Peth’s role: Charles Marsden


Interview with EP - Actually Keith Hack was so keen to get me, he told me that in the old Hollywood film of Strange Interlude Clark Gable had played the part of Marsden.  This was in the hope of persuading me that it was the glamorous romantic part I seemed to be looking for!  He was lying, of course. .... Nobody can say that O'Neill wasn't a comic writer when he wrote that buildup for Marsden's entrance at the boat race.  You know that he's been getting drunk and you think, “Oh, now we're going to see Marsden drunk”; or even if you hadn't thought it you suddenly do and this man with all his restraint and constraint and all these tortured emotions he occasionally lets the audience know about, carefully edited, and the kind of self-loathing as well, and the fear of life that he despairs about and all that, and then he's suddenly there as if he'd grown a pair of ludicrous wings!  The Eugene O'Neill Review


An interesting point about the Eugene O'Neill review by Prof Yvonne Shafer: She was so inspired by the interview with Peth that she went on to write a book: Performing O'Neill: Conversations with Actors and Directors. As she says in her Acknowledgements: Finally, thanks to Edward Petherbridge, who was so charming and witty during my interview with him for the Eugene O'Neill review that I was inspired to write this book.



From a review of Strange Interlude in the Eugene O'Neill newsletter

Edward Petherbridge stole the show as Charles Marsden, conveying all the repressions of the prissy penman (legs crossed, arms crossed, hands held together when one wasn't picking at the immaculate fingernails of the other) and mining every vitriolic vein in the lines with which he needles others and responds with bitchy wit to every real or supposed affront. The Eugene O'Neill Newsletter


Appropriately, Keith Hack's production finds its tone in waggish irony, as established by Charlie, the eternal old maid. Bitching genteelly about his rivals, flouncing through life with wet rancor, Charlie is the play's most modern character. And Petherbridge's deftly broad performance connects so directly with a 1985 audience that the other men's declarations of love sound like letters from high camp. His presence amounts to a deconstruction of the text, and a radical revitalizing of it. Transformed, the play lives. Richard Corliss, Time, March 4, 1985


Edward Petherbridge either has been given the duty of getting the merriment rolling quickly or has been inspired to do it on his own because he is having such fun, but he has managed to turn Miss Jackson's eternally patient, eternally loving, eternally sexless suitor, the novelist Charles Marsden (''Good Old Charlie!''), into a wonderfully fussed and fidgety commentator on the ''sex yahoos'' among whom he must live. Most of the Charlies I've seen have been damp with self-pity; Mr. Petherbridge is more nearly enraged, and it is his high dudgeon that sets the tone for the constant crackle of comedy that helps the opening sequences to get their plotting done easily. - Walter Kerr, New York Times, March 3, 1985


Two awesome actors - Glenda Jackson and Edward Petherbridge - and a courageously impudent director, Keith Hack, have given this work a fresh and unexpected life. While ''Strange Interlude'' hardly emerges as the cosmic statement that O'Neill intended - and while some of it is, indeed, pretentious pulp - it often seems the most enjoyable, not to mention deranged, comedy of sexual anxiety that Noel Coward or Philip Barry never wrote. Frank Rich, New York Times, February 22, 1985


More reviews:

New York Times

One more from NYT


Production details: Here 

and here

Related links:



Youtube clips 1 & 2 & 3


Original pic here

Another pic here 


Signed playbill 


More pics here

And a cartoon here
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