Random thoughts on the Rehearsed Reading of Look Back In Anger

Look Back In Anger poster of the first production at the Royal Court in 1956

Part of the Playwrights’ Playwright season at the Duke of York’s theatre, at 2pm yesterday a mouth watering cast (Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Anna Maxwell Martin, Matt Ryan and Julian Wadham) performed a rehearsed reading of John Osbourne’s Look Back in Anger. The word “seminal” was invented for that kind of play: when it was first performed 56 years ago, it changed british theatre, if not british society: not only did it introduce a new kind of writing that still dominates british theatre today, but also, quite possibly, saved the Royal Court from extinction. Most of the new writing of the last 55 years might not have happened if not for this play. The delightful irony of performing the reading at the set of Posh didn’t escape anyone.

Look Back in Anger is an indestructible play. The level of the audience’s emotional engagement right from the start is so high (even if that emotion can loathing) that no matter the production, it always feels like a wild ride. It’s amazing it’s been written more than half century ago: while the play is rooted in its time (and it’s interesting to contemplate how the characters were perceived then, and how we perceive them now), the writing is fresh and current. Continue reading

Review: Antigone at the National Theatre

Christopher Eccleston (Creon) and Jodie Whittaker (Antigone). Photo credit Johan Persson

Aka The Conversation with a touch of Poltergeist

In the programme for Sophocles’ Antigone at the National Theatre, there are many photos from the German film The Lives of Others, some of them at the background of the rehearsal room. It’s obvious that the production wears its references on its sleeve, but the films I was reminded of was Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (70’s paranoia) with a touch of Poltergeist (you ‘ll know what I mean if you see the production).

The setting is modern, but not 21st century. Most of the production plays out in the office headquarters of a military turned civil Authority with a distinct 70s feel. Cheap glass panels, dark passages, a photograph of the leader on the wall, office file trolleys. A small detail I loved was someone obsessively sharpening a pencil. But also there are the echoes of war: the glass of the light fixtures is broken. Some key scenes are played out at the back of this building, where the feel is much earthier and we get the sense of a different world: everyday people wanting to live everyday peaceful lives. Continue reading