Look Back in Anger



  • A play by John Osborne that opened on 8 May 1956 at theRoyal Court Theatre, London; it was Osborne's first play and thefirst major production by the English Stage Company under GeorgeDevine. The play's impact has been described as "a watershedin modern theater", and "the beginning of a renaissance".However, most first-night reviews were merely lukewarm. The notable exceptionwas Kenneth Tynan, who wrote: "I doubt if I could love anyonewho did not wish to see Look Back In Anger. It is the best young playof its decade."

    Look Back in Anger expressed, for the first time onthe London stage, youthful frustration at the post-war Establishment.Osborne's articulate anti-hero Jimmy Porter, first playedby Kenneth Haigh, was quickly dubbed the 'angry young man', givingthe title of Angry Young Men to the new generation of anti-Establishmentplaywrights. The play's down-at-heel setting - a dingy bedsit - also began the vogue for kitchen sink drama.

    For his part, Osborne described Look Back in Angeras a "formal, rather old-fashioned play". It focuses onJimmy Porter, a university-educated working-class market-stall owner,who spends most of his energy in merciless tirades against his middle-classwife, Alison, and her parents. When Alison becomes pregnant, her friend,Helena, comes to stay to offer support, much to Jimmy's disgust. AfterAlison finally walks out, Helena replaces her as Jimmy's lover - and as target for his invective. In the last act Alison returns, havingsuffered a miscarriage. Their coy, but touching, reconciliation showsOsborne in a gentler light.