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Corn Exchange - Look Back In Anger

This was the NWN review:

Savage beauty of language

Look Back In Anger at the Corn Exchange, on Wednesday, September 12 and Thursday, September 13

At first sight John Osborne's mould-breaking play, famously presented at the Royal Court in 1956, seems to have dated somewhat: the gentle, almost quaint banter between Jimmy and Cliff; the knee-jerk female protection of male feelings at the expense of their own; the clothes (25-year-old men in slacks, cardigans and slippers, smoking pipes), and the idea of jazz as subversive. It seems a world away. J. B. Priestley is writing in the Sunday papers, Vaughan Williams is on the radio: it's a Sunday as miserable as Tony Hancock's, but one suffused with class and anger.

Jimmy Porter is the original 'angry young man'. One of the first of the working class graduates, he feels apart from his class, adrift in a no man's land, caught between the certainties of the Second World War, the 'never had it so good' '50s, and the great causes of the '60s which are yet to come. "There aren't any good, brave causes left," he says, yet berates his wife for what he sees as her passivity and lack of belief in anything. "Nothing can provoke her... this monument to non-attachment."

What has not dated, however, is the power of the language - its savagery often beautiful, so many of the lines embedded in our consciousness - or the dynamic between Jimmy and Alison. She is a hostage in Jimmy's class war, yet her view of him as a savage - "a spiritual barbarian who threw down a gauntlet to me" - is at odds with her incomprehension of the oh-so-polite social brutality of her own class. Living with him, however, has brought some awareness. "Don't try to take his suffering away," she says to Helena. "He'd be lost without it." Within this maelstrom, Cliff is the peacemaker, the defuser of the marital powder keg, the ameliorator. He is comforter to Alison, foil and friend to Jimmy one of his own.

As Helena recognises the futility of a relationship with Jimmy, Alison, after a miscarriage, grovels as Jimmy once wished to see. Now without a go-between, they can only retreat into the baby animal talk that sustains their dependent, destructive relationship.

Set firmly in the mid-'50s, jazz by Stephane Grappelli and Ella Fitzgerald tipped us into the feel of the times as only music can. lan Bass was a bitter Jimmy Amy Bayless convincing as a woman of her time and class, and Clare Wille brought necessary brittleness to Helena. Jonathan Waite was less convincing as Cliff, rarely suggesting the depth beneath the surface, and Andrew McDonald rather too close to a clichéd portrayal of Colonel Redfern.


And this was the Newbury Theatre Editorial for 16th September:

Would you believe it's 45 years since John Osborne's play shook up the cobwebs of British theatre. I went to see it at the Corn Exchange last week, where it was near the start of its national tour by the London Classic Theatre Company. I hadn't seen the play before, and I found it relevant and thought-provoking (although I didn't think the acting was very good).

What was disappointing was the size of the audience - the Corn Exchange was only a third full on the Wednesday. It seems to be increasingly difficult to get people to come and see 'less popular' plays.