Look Back In Anger

Silo Theatre, Auckland

27/07/2006 - 12/08/2006

Production Details

By John Osborne
Directed by Miranda Harcourt
Producer: Mary Parker

Miranda Harcourt directs Mia Blake, Lucy Wigmore, Aaron Alexander and Louis Sutherland in the John Osborne classic, Look Back in Anger. With lighting and set design by Martyn Roberts and sound by Stephen Gallagher this production looks set to be one of the most powerful performances seen in Wellington and Auckland theatre this year.

Written in 1956 Look Back in Anger exploded the post-war colonial world and heralded a new age. It is widely regarded as one of the most confronting and moving plays of the 20th century. This will be the first professional production of the play to be performed for a Wellington audience.

Jimmy Porter - Aaron Alexander
Alison Porter - Mia Blake
Helena Charles - Lucy Wigmore
Cliff Lewis - Louise Sutherland
Voice of Alison's father - Ken Blackburn

Sets design: Martyn Roberts & Miranda Harcourt
Lighting design: Martyn Roberts
Design assistant: Laura Nicholls
Costumes: Zoe Fox
Sound design: Steve Gallagher
Stage management / lighting & sound operator: Anna Drakeford

Theatre ,

Narcissism unleashed

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 01st Aug 2006

What I knew about John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger before I attended the 3rd night of the Auckland season of this 50th anniversary production, I could write in one sentence. What I now know, I have already spent hours thinking about.

Using the central character Jimmy Porter, Osborne assaults us with the ravings of the original angry young white man. While in the 1950’s Jimmy the bully’s misogynist rants might have been interpreted in part as a bold stand against complacency and apathy, fifty years on, what rings alarmingly familiar to me is a far more universal comment on human nature: the pathetic individual, addicted to criticizing those around them in order to feel superior, reliant on the constant sound of their own voice to mask their inability to empathise with anything or anyone around them. Narcissism unleashed, and that is a timeless disorder.

Coupled with the overtones of emotional and psychological abuse within the dysfunctional relationship that Look Back in Anger revolves around, in its simple 3-act structure, Osborne’s play is a chilling, magnificent work.

At a time when, on a daily basis, our media points the finger at the alarming abuse statics in Godzone, Osborne’s watershed production resonates loud and clear. I am full with admiration for producer Mary Parker and team for mounting this important, powerful work. Its bleak content is as relevant today as it was in London in 1956. How depressing.

Director Miranda Harcourt has loaded this heavy ground breaking material on a relatively young cast. The decision to speak in their own natural accents reiterates the unchanging theme and brings freshness to the play.

While there are some good moments given by all, and some nice silent interplay between Mia Blake as Alison, Jimmy’s long suffering wife, and Louis Sutherland as flatmate Cliff, the would-be peacemaker stuck between two people he loves, on the whole, performances were uneven. At times detached and isolated, they lacked the depth and emotional variation required to give a more convincing voice to Osborne’s script.

Even taking into account the central protagonist Jimmy (played with exuberance by Aaron Alexander) is governed by constant self-referencing, the lack of believable connection between these three players meant poignant moments were sometimes missed. Blocking some of the key action so far into the corners, to the point the actors where practically off stage, did not help.

Lucy Wigmore gives a solid performance as Helena, a brilliantly written Judas-like character, who is inexplicably drawn to our damaged, dangerous anti-hero, despite her initial seemingly unwavering support of Alison’s plight.

The final showdown between Jimmy, and a broken Alison, sees Blake at her best, striped bare with raw emotion, and Alexander react extremely well, with menacing calculated affection.


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