Better than any soap today

John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger, 1959, was burned into a film starring Claire Bloom, Richard Burton and Mary Ure
John Osborne's play Look Back in Anger, 1959, was burned into a film starring Claire Bloom, Richard Burton and Mary Ure

The spirit of one of the angry young men still has something to say in 2014

Look back in anger - Grand Theatre, Lancaster

John Osborne’s early masterpiece, Look Back In Anger, was written in 1955 when the author was a young man struggling to make a name and a living as an actor and writer.

He was then working in repertory in Morecambe.

Whilst he continued writing plays for over another forty years, it was this semi-autobiographical and highly-influential play which launched his career.

Its Angry Young Man influence on later dramatists, right up to the present, is well-known, and the play has been said to be the prime source for the deluge of soap-operas that have flooded our screens ever since.

Yet almost 60 years on, it is still worth staging for its skilful dramatic structure, its natural if brutal dialogue and dramatic cruxes, if not for a nostalgic look back to a lost generation.

So how did a predominantly young cast of five from Lancaster Grand Theatre’s Studio Footlights cope with this sometimes brutal 
drama of an unhappy marriage, adultery and disillusion?

Their ample skills (over half of the cast are University of Cumbria Drama students or alumni), were finely directed and focussed by Christine Burn. Rob Pritchard and Rachel Lane-Dixon played the married sparring partners Jimmy and Alison Porter with 
suitable fire, with Adan Loughlin as the stoic and nicely-understated lodger Cliff Lewis.

Lucy Walton and Andy Dobel also contributed as Helena (‘home-wrecker’) Charles and the valiant peace-broking Colonel Diction was excellent, the intimate space of the Storey Auditorium used to good effect, and the overall sense of pace suitably varied according to the shifts, twists and turns in the dramatic narrative.

The all-too-easy temptations to rant or to steal the show were heroically resisted and the audience was riveted throughout. Whilst the domestic-upheaval subject-matter might still feature in various soap series, this production was far superior to most of their sad and shoddy offerings today.

Michael Nunn