February sees The Gate Theatre liberating ground breaking theatrical language from the explosive words of playwright John Osborne, and through the creative eyes of award-winning Irish theatre director Annabelle Comyn.
Look Back In Anger (1956) is widely considered to have changed the course of English drama in the 1950’s – and Comyn takes a fresh look at this world-renowned, blistering play, at a time when class and gender politics are once again brought to the fore. The show runs at The Gate Theatre for eight weeks, from February 1st until March 24th
This production of Look Back in Anger is artistic director, Selina Cartmell’s fourth production in her inaugural season, “The Outsider”. Considered a realist play of its time, the story focuses on the life and marital struggles of the play’s main character Jimmy Porter, an intelligent, educated but rebellious young man and his equally competent yet emotionless upper-middle class wife, Alison. The play tackles themes of sex, class, religion, politics, the media, and the sense of a country stifled by an official establishment culture.
Osborne drew inspiration from his personal life and failing marriage with Pamela Lane while writing Look Back in Anger, which was his first successful outing as a playwright. In media and theatre circles, the play, spawned the term “angry young men” to describe Osborne’s work and those of his generation who employed the harshness of realism in the theatre in contrast to the more escapist theatre that characterised the previous generation – offering a brand new wave of theatre for its time.
The play became an enormous commercial success, transferring to London’s West End and then New York’s Broadway, while also touring as far as field to Moscow. Its main personal advantage to Osborne was that it turned him from a struggling actor and playwright into a wealthy and famous personality, where he also won the Evening Standard Drama Award as the most promising playwright of 1956. Later, the play was adapted into a motion picture of the same name by Tony Richardson, starring Richard Burton and Mary Ure, released in 1959.
ABOUT – Director & Cast
Annabelle Comyn is a young Irish theatre director, who also heads Hatch Theatre Company as Artistic Director, and she is Director in Residence at The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Arts, Ireland. As a freelance director she most recently worked at The Lyric Theatre, Belfast, directing Dancing at Lughnasa for its 25th Anniversary. This is her second Gate Theatre production, and she is joined by a stellar young cast of actors that includes Lloyd Cooney, noted for his film roles in Charlie (2014), a film about noted Irish Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, and also Shadowboxer (2011); Clare Dunne, who starred in Grounded, by George Brant, at Dublin Fringe Festival 2015. Dunne’s film work includes Nice Night For It (2017) and The Cherishing (2016); Vanessa Emme, known for supernatural horror-film role, The Inside, by Eoin Mackin (2012); and Ian Toner better known for his TV roles in TG4’s Irish western An Klondike (2015) and RTÉ / BBC’s Redwater (2017). This all-new cast for the Gate will make for a thrilling theatre experience in Osborne’s play.
FURTHER BACKGROUND INFO ON THE PLAY
In the summer of 1955 The Stage Newspaper posted an advertisement asking for new play submissions. The ad had been placed by the English Stage Company (ESC) – a new theatre production company setting up business at the then unfashionable London Theatre, The Royal Court. The response to the ad was astounding. They received a staggering seven hundred and fifty scripts submissions; however, most were rubbish: either bottom-drawer pieces by what was considered hack writers or, in the words of Tony Richardson, who was to become the ESC’s associate director, “endless blank-verse shit”.
One interesting piece however leapt out of the pile: the curiously entitled Look Back in Anger by a totally unknown young actor called John Osborne. Founding father of the ESC, George Devine, after reading the play quickly saw its great potential and took it to Richardson, who was even more smitten by it. Together they committed to produce it in their first season at the Royal Court in 1956.
CREATIVE TEAM AND CAST
Directed by Annabelle Comyn
Set Design by Paul O’Mahony
Costume Design by Sarah Bacon
Lighting Design by Chahine Yavroyan
Sound Design by Tom Lane
Assistant Direction by Jack Reardon
Cast: Lloyd Cooney, Clare Dunne, Vanessa Emme, Ian Toner
Previews: from Thurs 1st Feb., 2018
Opening Night: Wed 7th Feb., 2018
Saturday Matinees: 2.30pm
Shows: Mon to Sat – 7.30pm
Tickets: €25 – €38
Box Office – 01 874 4045 / gatetheatre.ie
Tel: 01 874 4045 (Box Office)
All photos by Luca Truffarelli, courtesy Gate Theatre