CLOCKING in at just under five hours, with three intervals, The Gabriels was always going to be something of an endurance test but the length of the trilogy was integral to Richard Nelson’s aims for his plays. The Gabriels is set on three dates last year as the US election race narrowed down to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, with the action ending on election night before the victor was announced.

As the audience spilled out of ACCA at 9.30pm, having arrived at 1pm, it was impossible not to feel attached to the six members of this funny, liberal and, above all, relatable family. In a question and answer session before the marathon, the American playwright – who brought his Apple Family plays to the Brighton Festival in 2015 – spoke about his desire to subvert conventions of theatre.

For instance, he made canny use of technology to enable ostensibly “real life” levels of conversation; microphones hung over the six actors as they cooked and conversed in the family’s kitchen, meaning they have no need to project their voices or gesticulate for the benefit of the audience’s understanding. The result of this was a hypernaturalistic experience which has many pros but also a few cons. It was novel and refreshing to see actors behave like they’re not performing for an audience, but at times the approach felt a little exclusive.

In a way, it felt like you were present at the dinner table yourself, especially as the crowd was arranged “in the round” with every member having a different perspective of the action, but at other points the experience felt slightly voyeuristic, as though you were an unwanted spectator on an otherwise intimate occasion.

Nelson had also denied that he was a political playwright and this was apparent in a trilogy of plays that were political only with a small “p”. The election was discussed only in fairly superficial terms, with actual policies left untouched. The overriding impression, though, was of a people left behind. The constant refrain of “what about us?” reminded that audience that while The Gabriels aren’t the rust-belt Americans who voted for Trump, they still feel disenfranchised from the US political system.

The most affecting element of the plays, however, was a narrative strand that wasn’t advertised beforehand and came as a surprise. The composite members of the family each have their own problems but they are brought together by the shared grief of a loved one. The drama is at its most powerful on the few occasions that widow Mary (Maryann Plunkett) turns from fond nostalgia over her late husband to despair and anger within seconds.

Plunkett renders the vulnerability at the heart of the play beautifully but, just as US life continued after many people’s unthinkable scenario occurred last November, The Gabriels’ resilience is their most notable and commendable quality.