|Written by:||John Osborne|
|Directed by:||Gregory Hersov|
|Run:||Lyttleton Theatre, London
15 July – 11 September 1999
It becomes apparent that a great social gulf yawns between Jimmy and Alison. Her family is upper middle class military, perhaps verging on upper class, while Jimmy is decidedly working class. He had to campaign hard against her family’s disapproval. As he puts it: “Alison’s mummy and I took one look at each other, and from then on the age of chivalry was dead.” Also, the sole family income is earned with sweets stall at the local market – an enterprise which is well beneath Jimmy’s education, let alone Alison’s station.
As Act 1 unfolds, Jimmy becomes increasingly vituperative, transferring his contempt for Alison’s family to her, calling her pusillanimous and generally belittling her. The argument gets rough, with the ironing board being overturned and Alison’s arm burned. Jimmy exits to play his trumpet off stage.
Alison and Cliff play a tender scene, during which she confides him that she has accidentally become pregnant and cannot bring herself to tell Jimmy. Cliff urges her to tell him. When Jimmy returns, Alison announces that her actress friend Helena Charles is coming to stay, and it is obvious that Jimmy despises Helena even more than Alison. He flies into a rage, and conflict is inevitable.
Jimmy enters, and the tirade continues. When the women put on hats and say that they will go to church, Jimmy’s sense of betrayal peaks. When he leaves to take an urgent phone call, Helena announces that she has forced the issue by sending telegram to Alison’s parents, asking them to come and rescue her. Alison is stunned, but agrees that she will go.
Alison’s father, Colonel Redfern, has come to take her back to the family home. Although sympathetic, the Colonel is, as he admits himself, out of touch with the modern world. “You’re hurt because everything’s changed,” Alison tells him, “and Jimmy’s hurt because everything’s stayed the same.”
Alison explains to Helena that she has lost the baby – in one of his cruellest Act I speeches, Jimmy wished for Alison to conceive a child and lose it – the two women reconcile, but Helena realises that what she has done is immoral and in turn decides to leave. She summons Jimmy to hear her decision and he lets her go with a sarcastic farewell.
The play ends with a sentimental reconciliation between Jimmy and Alison. They revive an old game they used to play, pretending to be bears and squirrels, and seem to have reached a truce.
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Look Back In Anger Penguin Plays
by John Osborne [paperback]