Monday, 14 March 2016

Look Back In Anger (reaction not review) - Derby Theatre

It's a wet Sunday afternoon sometime in the late 1950s and Jimmy Porter is angry - oh my, is he angry! - about what he reads in the newspaper, about the weather, about not being able to get a pint on Sunday, about his wife's rich background, about the fact that no one will argue back at him, about his wife ironing while he wants to have fun (or at least an argument). He may feel frustrated, thwarted in his ambitions, and held-back by his working class roots. Maybe he wants to change the world  - but taking out his anger on the people closest to him isn't really the way to do it ..... and to be honest, after a while, Jimmy starts to come over as not so much an angry young man as a stroppy teenager.
.....and I haven't started on his attitude to women, both generally and towards his wife, Alison, specifically... Ok  Jimmy is a 1950s man, and the roles of men and women have changed a lot since then, but he's prepared to sit around while his wife does housework, expects her sympathy with his tiniest grievance but offers her none, and, for all his claims, doesn't really seem interested in her opinion on anything. He talks openly about the lovers he's had before he met his wife, and when she leaves him he's quick to find another. What he really seems to want is a woman who'll unconditionally adore him, agree with him all the time (no matter how quickly he changes his standpoint) and somehow magically get the housework done without upsetting his day.

Are we actually supposed to sympathise with this guy?

Look at things from his wife's point of view ....while Jimmy's having his little tantrum, she's working away, getting the ironing done. Nothing remarkable in that maybe, but Alison is a middle class educated woman - doesn't SHE feel frustrated by how her life has turned out? Did she expect to end up living in a one room bed-sit-style flat, with a husband who seems to complain day in day out about everything? Even so it's hard to sympathise with her - maybe because it's difficult to put oneself in Alison's 1950's shoes, but she does come over as rather too meek and mild, prepared to put up with whatever Jimmy says or does. She presumably still loves him and for any woman to leave her husband at that date wouldn't be as easy a decision as it would be today but I can't believe there was ever a happy ending in store for them.

The 60th anniversary production of Look Back In Anger at Derby Theatre is accompanied by a modern piece, Jinny, showing a modern woman full of unfulfilled dreams ..... I'm off to see it in a couple of weeks, so I'll wonder how she'll compare to 'old' Jimmy.

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