Jimmy Porter. Is he just plain objectionable - or does he have a point?
It’s the question Creative Cow productions will attempt to answer when they revive the archetypal angry-young-man play Look Back In Anger for the piece’s 55th anniversary.
They bring the play to The Hawth Studio, Crawley on April 15 and 16 and to the
Mill Studio, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford on April 29 and 30.
“It’s a role I have been wanting to play for about 15 years,” says Piers Wehner, whose job it is to rise to the challenge. “It’s up there with Hamlet. The thing that we are getting around is that Jimmy is so complicated. He has a line that he says that he raves and shouts and everybody thinks ‘poor chap or what an objectionable young man.’ There is so much to him.”
Another significant line is the suggestion that he was born out of his time: “He could have been a Danton or a Robespierre, a flag-waving militant radical, but he couldn’t be the gritty salt-of-the-earth types that he surrounds himself with.
“But one of the things that we are talking about - and that the director Amanda is drumming into me - is the idea of keeping it quite light and frothy. There is a bit that (playwright) John Osborne says in an introduction to a later play that he was fed up with everyone saying Jimmy was the angry young man and that it overshadowed all the rest. Osborne said that it was meant to be funny, that he had written a comedy.”
Even so, there is no denying Jimmy’s cruelty, Piers admits: “There is no getting away from the fact that he is just vile and deeply unpleasant at times. He is also extremely emotionally manipulative.
“But he is a deeply-troubled individual that just does not know how to control it. Alison (his wife) says ‘Really, Jimmy, you are just like a child’. But he can be very flamboyant, very witty and very funny.
“He is fantastically intelligent and creative. And he is so quick. It’s great to get inside the head of someone that is operating at a hundred miles an hour, throwing out these extraordinary thoughts and concepts, his flights of fancy, his bizarre little jokes that he really goes for.”
The play has been directed by Creative Cow’s artistic director Amanda Knott, whose credits (after an early career as a dancer with the Ballet Rambert), include posts as associate director of the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, staff producer at Kent Opera assisting Jonathan Miller and assistant director at the Royal Shakespeare Company.