The arrival of Look Back in Anger, John Osborne’s revolutionary play about anger, decay and the rage simmering beneath the surface of British losers in the 1950s, revolutionized play writing and marked the beginning of a new decade of torn T-shirts and kitchen-sink misery on the London stage and the end of the well-written, elegantly staged works of Terence Rattigan, Enid Bagnold and Noël Coward. It was hailed as an important work when it opened in 1956 at the small, experimental Royal Court Theatre off Sloane Square, an alternative to the glossy productions in the West End. It was filled with hell and fury and shouted obscenities, a “protest” play unlike any slice of realism ever witnessed by refined London audiences weaned on Ibsen and Shaw. The excitement faded fast. By the time it was turned into a film of sweat, grief and brimstone in 1958 starring a young, virile Richard Burton, its time had passed. The movie was a flop and Look Back in Anger was toothless history. Mr. Osborne was credited (and cursed) with shuttering the complacency of well-ordered British dramaturgy. Time has now born witness to a desperate need to bring back Rattigan, Coward and the others. And not a moment to soon. Read More
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