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  • Entertainment

THEATRE: Look Back in Anger stirs the emotions

Wednesday, 28th February, 2018 7:00pm
THEATRE: Look Back in Anger stirs the emotions

Ian Toner as Jimmy Porter. PHOTO: LUCA TRUFFARELLI 

THEATRE: Look Back in Anger stirs the emotions

Ian Toner as Jimmy Porter. PHOTO: LUCA TRUFFARELLI 

RICHARD Burton may be best known as the husband of Elizabeth Taylor and the Marc Anthony to her Cleopatra, but the gravel voiced Welshman also played more mundane roles. 

One such part was that of irate Jimmy Porter in writer John Osborne’s film adaptation of his 1950s groundbreaking play, ‘Look Back in Anger’.

Over 60 years later and award winning Irish director, Annabelle Comyn, has taken the potentially dated stage piece and turned it into a fresh and modern offering with a run at the Gate Theatre until March 24. 

Jimmy (Ian Toner) is to put it mildly, angry with the world. Like many Englishmen of his generation, he’s also obsessed with his position in society and expends great effort trying to compensate by taking out his frustration on wife Alison and flatmate Cliff. 

Alison (Clare Dunne) annoyingly sits a class above her husband and friend Cliff (Lloyd Cooney), satisfyingly, a notch or two below.

The story develops from the initial set-up where Jimmy firmly puts everyone in their place, (including Alison who is chained to the ironing board), to explore the impact of one man’s destructive behaviour on all those around him.

There is little doubt that the play in its original form has less relevance today, and that fact must have been obvious to Comyn who has shaken up things considerably with this new production. 

The set is housed in a large recording booth with actors still visible as they exit to take a drink or more interestingly, read some of the stage direction as voiceover. 

Comyn has taken the bold decision for the actors, especially the female ones, not to follow some of the original script (which we still hear). An act of defiance perhaps, commentary on how we have moved on. 

Despite these innovations, it’s still hard to fully comprehend Jimmy’s anger, his obsession with class and the fact that his wife could be so subservient. 

The play may be best viewed as a snapshot of history, with modern techniques that help make those indigestible elements more palatable. It’s definitely worth a watch, earning our review score of 3 stars.  

• Movie of the week - I, Tonya - 4 Stars

Paul O’Rourke


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