Genre-Defining Look Back in Anger Coming to the Gate Theatre

by Jordan Upshaw
Clare Dunne features in Look Back in Anger at the Gate Theatre

The ground-breaking 1956 play Look Back in Anger will run at the Gate Theatre from February 1 to March 24.

Playwright John Osborne is credited with transforming English theatre with Look Back in Anger. The play set the tone for Osborne’s generation of “angry young men” and harsh theatrical realism.

A BAFTA-nominated film version of the play starring seven time Oscar nominee Richard Burton was released in 1959. Oscar winner Judi Dench directed a television version starring Oscar winner Emma Thompson and five time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh in 1989.

The play tells the story of the volatile marriage of the two main characters, Jimmy and Alison Porter.

Jimmy was born working class and rebellious; Alison comes from money and is emotionless. Neither are satisfied with their lives.

The couple’s respective best friends, snooty Helena and amiable Cliff, arrive with agendas and feelings of their own to further complicate the story.

Themes of sex, class, religion, politics, the media, and a struggling sense of country under a repressive establishment culture are explored.

Famed writer Alan Sillitoe said of the play: “Osborne didn’t contribute to English theatre… he set off a landmine called Look Back in Anger and blew most of it up”.

The play is nearly 60 years old yet this production comes at a time when class and gender politics are more relevant than ever.

Award-winning young Irish director Annabelle Comyn leads a cast known for their film, TV, and theatre roles: Lloyd Cooney (Charlie), Clare Dunne (Grounded), Vanessa Emme (The Inside), and Ian Toner (Redwater).

The run time (including intermission) is 2 hours and 15 minutes. The show is not recommended for children under 16. Parental supervision is required for persons under 18.

Tickets are priced from €25 to €38 depending on the show. They can be purchased online at gatetheatre.ie or directly through the box office on 01 874 4045.

During the run of Look Back in Anger the Gate Theatre will be launching a new initiative called Late at the Gate. Shows will be February 23 and 24, March 2, 3, 9, 10, 15, 16, 23, and 24 for a total of 10 performances.

Late at the Gate will allow audiences and artists to respond to the featured performance in the context of contemporary world issues.

Programming will run parallel to full length plays such as Look Back in Anger and include post-show discussions, platforms, and mini productions.

The first of these programs will be written and performed by the award-winning Emmet Kirwin (Dublin Oldschool). He will portray his version of a contemporary Jimmy Porter and offer insights into both the “angry young men” and Ireland of 2018.

The run time is about 30 minutes. Tickets are €10 and can be purchased on gatetheatre.ie or 01 874 4045. 

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