Look back in Anger @ New Theatre

Many will be familiar with John Osborne’s iconic 1956 play and its introduction to British theatre of a new wealth of material, told in brutal honesty as never before. The context out of which it sprung is a key moment in our recent history – post-war Britain in depression, the sudden move away from class and gender distinctions, and the disillusioned youth of this frustrated state.

James Lewis’ adaptation certainly captures the realism of Osborne’s play, contributed to both by the impressive and highly appropriate design and the consistent believability on the part of the cast, who are onstage and in character whilst the audience enter. However I am still trying to decide whether something really crucial is lost from Osborne’s original through the elimination of the brilliant final act, and the moments which tie the piece together. Despite a somewhat self-conscious beginning, David Nertherton successfully develops Jimmy into a really infuriating and unpleasant Angry Young Man – uncomfortable to watch and therefore a convincing portrayal. But had we had the chance to view the added depth given to his character by the ‘replaying’ of the first act in the third, with Helena replacing Alison, and Jimmy’s ultimate reconciliation with his wife, perhaps the production and its characters would have reached a fuller development, giving the audience more to take away from the experience. Admittedly, it is a long script and 52 years after the initial controversy surrounding the play, there is now perhaps less of the thrill and urgency intrinsic to the play that would allow the full script to maintain engagement.

As I have mentioned, the cast do not convey significant conviction until the scene in which Alison falls and hurts her arm. From this point on however they relax into the changes of pace and volume, and allow the silences to play out more confidently, engaging with each other, and the audience, with more dynamism. The directorial interpretation of Cliff, given an endearing portrayal by Douggie McMeekin, is enjoyable and apt: ineffectual yet well-meaning, soft, sensitive and bumbling; the classic underdog. Victoria Auckland gives a suitably flouncy depiction of Helena, with a comfortable stage presence that serves occasionally to tie the action together. Christey Nethercott’s Alison, although not persuasive at first, invokes in us appropriate levels of empathy and frustration through an increasingly confident involvement with her character. It is not an edge-of-your-seat evening, but a well-designed and eventually confidently and feelingly depicted production, demonstrating a thoughtful perception of the protagonists and the relationships between them.

Emily Shirtcliff

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6 Comments on this post.
  • Tommy Thompson
    7 December 2008 at 22:45
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    This reviewer seems to have left the play during the interval (this may be because the interval came rather late in terms of the entire running time) and missed the third act. Furthermore, an assesment on this third act has thus also been omitted.
    The third act was, in fact, the best part of the production whereby Osborne’s play is tied up rather neatly in an apt 30 minute segment. It is in this act where the acting really comes to the fore, especially in the performances of Allison and Jimmy. The direction is also most evident in this section.
    I suggest this reviewer reasses the entire review considering the fact that they appear to have made the somewhat understandable mistake of leaving during the interval.

  • Angus
    8 December 2008 at 02:14
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    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’m sure the last act was actually there… after the interval?

  • Angus
    8 December 2008 at 20:58
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    Indeed, the 3rd Act was the best bit. Surely the lack of a curtain call and the fact that people were milling around in the foyer for long periods of time should have been a reasonable enough clue?

  • Emily
    10 December 2008 at 12:27
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    I have just come from a seminar where I was kindly informed that I might want to check out the website, as clearly, I have screwed up royally! Many, many apologies to the director, cast and crew for missing the third act – I was not alone in making this mistake, but obviously as reviewer I admit I probably should have stuck around to make sure…
    I completely retract my questioning of the director’s choices, and as I mentioned in the review I felt that the production would have reached a fuller development in the third act. According to the production’s defenders, my instincts were obviously right on this point. I apologise again for not having given a fair/complete review, and assure you that I feel like a complete fool.

  • James Lewis
    10 December 2008 at 12:48
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    I can confirm that we did include the 3rd Act, and that it was universally deemed the best part of the play, given the emotionally draining (albeit necessary) action of the first two acts. It is a difficult play to split in half, but I think we did a decent job overall, allowing for a dramatic moment at the interval and a short, sucker-punch second half (running at around half the time of the first).

    I can only be disappointed that the reviewer failed to notice both the message at the interval (about the play starting again in 20 minutes) or the full house audience staying in the foyer after the first half, but I suppose these things happen.

    Perhaps another Impact writer who saw the whole play could write a new review? Either way, this one should be retracted immediately.

  • Hello
    10 December 2008 at 13:41
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    The last act was indeed there, just as the script requires it, after the interval, as tradition dictates. Lol!

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