Young Irish director Annabelle Comyn has breathed new life into the 1950s John Osborne classic, Look Back in Anger.
The production debuted at the Gate Theatre on February 7 and features a stellar cast who share an easy chemistry.
Ian Toner is Jimmy Porter, the original “angry young man” of theatre. Toner brings just enough charm to offset his character’s self-aggrandising speeches and malice.
As Alison Porter, Clare Dunne gives a believable performance as a victim of spousal abuse while bringing a refreshing new strength to the role.
Lloyd Cooney and Vanessa Emme round off Cliff and Helena, the couple’s respective best friends.
Cooney brings a surprising yet welcome amount of likability and comic relief to the serious subject matter, while Emme successfully disrupts the entire plot when she arrives on the scene.
However, Comyn’s fresh reinterpretation of the source material is what stands out most. Even those familiar with the play will be surprised by this production.
Through well-chosen directorial decisions, Comyn gives the female characters an agency they were previously denied.
Nearly all of the stage directions from the script are narrated by whichever actor happens to be offstage. This provides a sense of Osborne’s influence; the audience can almost see him using his words to yank the characters around, often against their will.
Beyond that, the characters sometimes resist their orders, waiting for them to be repeated before complying. Sometimes they ignore them completely.
However, the young female director wrests power from the author and puts it in the hands of the female characters instead.
Comyn has pulled off the daunting feat of changing the narrative without changing the script and staying faithful to Osborne’s story while making it her own.
Look Back in Anger runs at the Gate until March 24. Tickets can be bought at www.gatetheatre.ie, or directly at its box office on 01 874 4045.