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Vintage Osborne

PUBLISHED: 13:40 25 September 2008 | UPDATED: 17:26 16 August 2010

HALF a century after its first performance, John Osborne s shocking play Look Back in Anger presents modern audiences with a problem -

HALF a century after its first performance, John Osborne's "shocking" play Look Back in Anger presents modern audiences with a problem - how can they treat this as anything more than a period piece? writes Mark Campbell.

The action (such as it is) takes place across a series of dismal Sunday afternoons as Jimmy Porter - the proverbial 'angry young man' - rails against class, society, the Establishment and anything else that takes his fancy.

He is a dyed-in-the-wool specimen of working class angst, but his wife Alison, slaving impassively over an ironing board, is decidedly upper-middle class.

Sharing these grim afternoons is their friend Cliff, an amiable Welshman who acts as Jimmy and Alison's unofficial go-between.

But this once supposedly shocking play, performed at the Greenwich Playhouse recently, now feels as jaded as Jimmy's view of the world.

Brett Harris does well to inject energy into the character, but it's a hard task to make him anything other than a monotonous, ranting, bore.

In the face of his non-stop jibes, Fiona Rose Boylan as Alison projects a world-weary detachment that is all too realistic.

Philip John has a good stab at Cliff's Welsh accent, but his characterization is too reactionary to provide the much-needed contrast to Jimmy's swaggering boastfulness.

As Helena, Alison's friend and later Jimmy's lover, Laura Corcoran was a more engaging figure all round, exuding up-market sex appeal which clearly floated Jimmy's boat.

Don't Look Back in Anger is a depressing play, peopled with dislikeable people, and in this sense director Maria Chiorando undoubtedly achieved her aims.

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