John Osborne’s 1950s landmark play incubates the legacy of the ‘angry young men’, a denouement of the war, but whose legacy lives on with today’s youth.
Jimmy Porter is exasperated with the lethargic world and the apathacy that permeates it. His boredom, captured in the Sunday domestic lull of ironing and reading the paper, which he orders by social tier, is expelled through his verbosely vicious attack on his forbearing wife Alison and playful baiting with his welsh housemate Cliff. His apparent socialist agenda propels his hatred of religion and denouncement of the elite classes, from which he rescued Alison. The lengthy visit of Alison’s family friend is a sour reminder of her background, for both of them, and manifests his burning victim mentality and fear that he may be left alone.
Jack Wharrier who plays Jimmy masters this cocktail of crude arrogance and childish desperation. His charged excitement in the initial scenes was brilliant to watch as he rambles on with no verbal stimulation from his exhausted roommates. You can’t help but feel that Jimmy in contemporary school of thought would be labeled with some abbreviated medical title, although Jack’s performance defies any definition. His unpredictability is what drives him and our interest in him. Despite his unprovoked violent imputation of Alison, we never wholeheartedly condemn Jimmy.
Nonetheless Jimmy’s outbursts cause fissures through the audience and the intimacy of the space makes the impact devastating. Harriet’s Hare’s stoney-subservient silences are passionately announced. Her big eyes scold her husband and demand empathy. She is the antithesis to her friend Helena, played by Kate Tydman, who quite literally demands respects, with all the confidence of middle class reckoning. She is oddly like Jimmy in her tenacity and compulsion to put the world to right and the two clash together for some brilliantly awkward scenes on the brink of a physical erruption.
The intimate stage revises the cramped living situation as Jimmy’s snake physique stretches the length of the floor. The audience spread across three sides of the stage, which exasperates the feeling of claustrophobia and gives immediacy to the action. The saturation of all four characters on stage, with one infrequently blocking the view of the action, extends this irritation to the audience who are forced to crane their necks, desperate to see the stage. This mirroring of feeling is provocative, whether or not it was intentional. The ability to feel what the characters feel and see what they do is emotive and what really recommends small production, as opposed to their emotionally diffused bigger brothers. It also makes the challenge for the Actors that much greater and each one was brilliantly cast and showed no sign of pressure under scrutiny.
The production is modified with refrences to texting and phone calls that does enough to give a subtle nod to the twenty-first century without undermining the script. It is after all a play that is so much saturated in its social context, but with themes that can transcend. It is an outstanding production that would give anything from the west end a run for it’s money, and win.
Reading Rep Monday 22nd July – Saturday 3rd August 2013, 7.30pm, Matinee Saturday 3rd August, 2.30pm All tickets are £10. For more information and to buy tickets: http://www.readingrep.com/look-back-in-anger/