Look Back in Anger

Tue 12th – Sat 16th February 2013

reviews

George Nichols

at 01:24 on 13th Feb 2013

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John Osbourne's Look Back in Anger, despite me only ever having read it, has always been one of my favourite plays. Not only is the dialogue incredibly witty and funny but the revolution in writing it inspired demonstrates the script's power; within it's context it was an important revival for theatre and beginning of the 'kitchen sink' era.To finally see a production of this was an exciting prospect for me and Full Theatre Company's attempt was, for the most part, well pulled off, satisfying my long held desire to see this play.The Alma tavern is probably the most perfect venue imaginable for Look Back in Anger; its cluttered atmosphere and location above a pub complemented the piece phenomenally, however I did feel this production suffered from some inconsistency. Certain scenes such as 2:1 and 3:2 were outstanding, 3:2 especially nearly moved me to tears, but Act 1 did not have quite the same impact.

Look back in Anger is set in a cramped attic in the Midlands and follows the lives of Jimmy (Jonathon Levers) a well educated man from a working class background, his upper middle class wife Alison (Kat Underwood),their well tempered 'dim witted' lodger Cliff (Dave McCann) and Alison's snobby best friend Helena (Eleanor Skinner). Predominantly it follows Jimmy and Alison's clustered and straining relationship. Jonathon Levers does very well as the intelligent 'angry young man', at times his ruthless and vicious bullying of Alison effected the audience noticeably. At other times however I did find some of his lines were lost and perhaps the audience could have benefited if the pace was slowed down. What was most satisfying about Levers portrayal though was the empathy and at times sympathy drawn from the audience. His words can be immensely disturbing, although charismatic, but it is important we feel the strain the relationship has on him as well as how deeply subjects such as politics and death seem to affect him. I felt that in the first act the chemistry between him and Underwood was a little subdued, and perhaps there could have been more energy in their intereaction but this could be put down to first night jitters rather than the abilities of Levers or Underwood.

Dave McCann played Cliff very well. It is always hard to be the softer character when there is someone as bombastic as Jimmy, but it is an important role and one that McCann played admirably. His fondness for Alison was present from the start although I perhaps feel he could have developed it more throughout the play. Also on a lesser and more pedantic note I found the Welsh accent slipped at times but then I perhaps picked up on this more than anyone else as I myself am Welsh. Eleanor Skinner played the snobby Helena well also (especially in 2:1), although I felt her actual desire for Jimmy could have been hinted earlier on by her actions. For me, Underwood gave the standout performance of the night, beginning as soon as the audience filed in to see her systematically doing housework, her mind on greater things, up until her last speech which was beautifully performed and was full of frustration and anger that seemed to seep from every pore of her body.

My assumption is that this play was directed by the cast, something I never managed to clarify after the show and something that isn't written in the program (if I am wrong about this I apologise). I enjoyed the realist staging of having the cast on stage as soon as the audience walked into the auditorium as I felt it really cemented the purposeful mirroring of scenes 1:1 and 3:1 with Alison and Helena respectively. I also felt the movement was very natural and not forced. However, I had two main qualms with this production. When I first read this play I found it funny - real life, after all, can be very comical. My favourite line of the play is the description of a friend as a 'female Emily Bronte' but some lines like this were lost or rushed. Similarly when Alison reveals to Cliff she is pregnant and he says he needs to cut her bandages always struck me as a moment of awkward humour. Some blame goes to the audience for this but when an audience doesn't laugh it is up to the cast to draw it out of them and that is something that didn't happen until the third act when Helena says 'I think I love you' and Jimmy replies 'Yes, I think you do'. My other qualm is with the odd decision to have two intervals as if the audience weren't trusted to pay attention. This isn't a decision I remember being specified when reading the play and I felt it would have had a better crescendo had there only been one interval.

In conclusion however, I thoroughly enjoyed this production and heartily encourage you to go and see it in the Alma Theatre - there couldn't be a more perfect setting. There are some terrific performances and my criticism of the smallest of details is a testament to the quality of this production. 4 stars highly deserved.

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