Trinity Theatre Company is performing Look Back in Anger all this week. The Times spoke to its director, Meg Nutt, about why this amateur dramatic group decided to put on a production of the gritty, groundbreaking 1950s’ drama by John Osborne for a modern-day audience
LAST year saw the 60th anniversary of the iconic play that launched the infamous ‘angry young man’ and contributed to the ‘kitchen-sink drama’ genres in British theatre.
John Osborne penned his most famous work, Look Back in Anger, in 1956, and upon its first public performance at the Royal Court Theatre in London, which starred fledgling actors such as Alan Bates, Helena Hughes and Kenneth Haigh, it managed to shock audiences with its bleak realism, anti-establishment tone and polemical plotline – which covered everything from sex and religion to politics and the press.
Despite its controversial debut, Look Back in Anger went on to become one of theatre’s most revered and groundbreaking literary pieces, and ended up becoming a searing and brutally honest reflection of the ill feeling amongst the disenchanted youth of post-war Britain.
What it also ultimately did was to liberate the up until then elitist and overly florid theatrical language of the time – transforming it into something more colloquial and accessible for all.
“The plot concerns a love triangle,” explains Trinity Theatre Company member and show Director Meg Nutt. “It involves Jimmy Porter, a highly educated, articulate and disillusioned working class man, his upper middle class wife Alison and her haughty, sophisticated friend Helena.”
The trio become embroiled in a love triangle with all manner of consequences, and with the underlying themes of lust, betrayal, frustration and aggression it was a world away from the usual mid-20th century theatre fare.
“Through its blazing immediacy, corrosive vitality and harsh realism, Look Back in Anger changed the face of British theatre forever,” continues Meg.
“I have always wanted to direct this landmark production, for many of the reasons above. The writing has lost none of its bite and still disturbs and questions in equal measure.
“The immediacy and linguistic exuberance that faced British audiences in the 50s was a style that nobody was used to. It set off a landmine and blew most of the safe, parlour-style, comedy-style theatre that audiences were familiar with out of the window!”
Meg says that although it’s probably one of the most famous and challenging pieces of modern-day theatre, she is not phased by this – in fact, her feelings are quite the opposite:
“I enjoy taking on a challenge and this claustrophobic, deep, deliciously cruel play already has a proud place in history, and has to be seen to be believed!”
Performances of Look Back in Anger are at Trinity Theatre until Saturday 4 March nightly, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday. Call 01892 678678 or see www.trinitytheatre.net