Look Back in Anger as an extraordinary play / John Osborne as a dramatist / Social issues in Look Back in Anger / Look Back in Anger as a mouthpiece of John Osborne
The first production of John Osborne's Look Back in Anger in 1956 provoked a major controversy. There were those, like the Observer newspaper's influential critic Kenneth Tynan, who saw it as the first totally original play of a new generation. There were others who hated both it and the world that Osborne was showing them. But even these critics acknowledged that the play, written in just one month, marked a new voice on the British stage. Howard Brenton, writing in the Independent newspaper at the time of Osborne's death in 1994, said, “When somebody breaks the mould so comprehensively it's difficult to describe what it feels like”. In the same paper, Arnold Wesker described Osborne as having “opened the doors of theatres for all the succeeding generations of writers”. Look Back in Anger came to exemplify a reaction to the affected drawing-room comedies of Noel Coward, Terrence Rattigan and others, which dominated the West End stage in the early 1950s. Coward et al wrote about an affluent bourgeoisie at play in the drawing rooms of their country homes, or sections of the upper middle class comfortable in suburbia. Osborne and the writers who followed him were looking at the working class or the lower middle class, struggling with their existence in bedsits or terraces. The "kitchen sink" dramatists—as their style of domestic realism became to be known—sought to convey the language of everyday speech, and to shock with its bluntness. Eric Keown, reviewing Look Back in Anger in Punch magazine at the time, wrote that Osborne “draws liberally on the vocabulary of the intestines and laces his tirades with the steamier epithets of the tripe butcher”. The three-act play takes place in a one-bedroom flat in the Midlands. Jimmy Porter, lower middle-class, university-educated, lives with his wife Alison,...
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