Look Back In Anger

  • Date:
    Tuesday, July 20, 1999

    Gregory Hersov directs the Royal National Theatre's production of John Osborne's first play "Look Back In Anger' with a ferocious intensity that John Osborne originally envisaged.

    The story concerns Jimmy Porter, a working class sweet-stall owner who lives with his middle-class wife Alison in a dingy bedsit, along with their friend Cliff. Jimmy is an anti-hero who is always complaining about the miseries of life and society in Britain. He is angry all the time, and Alison and Cliff are the ones that have to face the brunt of his anger. However, Jimmy's marriage reaches a crisis point when Alison's friend, Helena, comes to stay.

    This play had its premiere at the Royal Court Theatre in 1956 and had a frenzied impact on British theatre after some exhilarating reviews from the press. The play posed questions about Britain's identity at the time and this play has not dated much over the years. It still packs a punch and still leaves you wondering why Jimmy Porter is so angry.

    Lasting two and half hours this play races by at a rapid pace as the intense and gripping story line has you transfixed along with an energetic performance by MICHAEL SHEEN as 'Jimmy Porter'. The character of 'Jimmy' is a very difficult one to play, but Michael is certainly up to the task producing an emphatic performance. He captures the self-pitying enraged 'Jimmy' perfectly. So perfectly in fact that it almost drives you crazy with irritation yourself!! There are competent performances from EMMA FIELDING, as 'Alison', JASON HUGHES as 'Cliff' and WILLIAM GAUNT as 'Colonel Redfern', Alison's father. However, the performance of MITILDA ZIEGLER as 'Helena' stands out for me. Her voice and body language is captivating, particularly when confronting 'Jimmy' about his behaviour. I found the relationship between these two characters gave the play some needed humour.

    This production has received good reviews from the popular press: THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Look forward in pleasure as Osborne's angry hero is redeemed." DOMINIC CAVENDISH of TIME OUT says, "Michael Sheen gives us a Jimmy Porter who is fearsomely alive.." The headline in THE TIMES by BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE says, "Portrait in the attic is still a treasure." THE DAILY EXPRESS says, "The great achievement of Gregory Hersov's production is that it shows us Osborne's fabulous rant is still very much a going concern." THE DAILY MAIL says, "Sheen is simply exhilarating." THE FINANCIAL TIMES says, "In the theatre - certainly at the National Theatre, where it is now excellently revived - you see simply how brilliantly Osborne knew how to write a play." THE GUARDIAN says, "It is a good play precisely because Jimmy and Alison are well-matched opponents in the endless class war." THE INDEPENDENT says, "All in all, this perfectly paced production is nothing short of a revelation." However, David Blewitt of THE STAGE says, "It has become a period piece". And goes on to say, "The feel of the time is missing."

    This is a top class production and well worth seeing.

    (Darren Dalglish)

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