Review: Look Back in Anger, Derby Theatre

“What kind of man are you?”

Where else to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Look Back in Anger than in the city where it is set, and in the very theatre where the marriage between John Osborne and Pamela Lane came under such strain as to inspire the turbulence of the play that, as conventional wisdom would have it, changed the face of British theatre. Recently, the play has been rarely seen, suffering from the very thing that brought its fame – ever-evolving theatrical tastes – but Sarah Brigham’s production makes it feel startlingly pertinent.

The archetypal angry young man, decidedly working class but university educated Jimmy Porter finds himself raging against every aspect of his life in 1956 Derby. The huge social gulf that marks his marriage to the upper middle class Alison, her haughty friend Helena who’s coming to stay, the cramped flat which they share with pal Cliff and the politics they debate ferociously, the music on the radio that isn’t his beloved jazz… And as his frustrations take on an ever more vicious turn, a love triangle emerges that shatters what fragile peace there is. Continue reading “Review: Look Back in Anger, Derby Theatre”

Review: The Odyssey, Derby Theatre

“Where shall we start?”

Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey is a cornerstone of Western literature and so unsurprisingly has endured and thrived as part of our cultural consciousness since the 8th century BC when it was composed. So its tale of soldier Odysseus’ 20 year absence from his home in Ithica due to the 10 years of the Trojan War and then a troublesome 10 year journey back feels an appropriate fit in the centenary year of the Great War, especially given Mike Kenny’s new version and Sarah Brigham’s inspired direction.

For this interpretation digs deep into both the psychological and practical effects of war. The first half asks searching questions about the nature of telling war stories, Odysseus’ recounting of his trials become a meditation on survivor guilt as he revisits decisions made in the heat of combat, the sacrifices he asked of his men, struggling to rationalise the huge losses incurred. And part two turns its view on those left behind and the difficulties they have to face in welcoming back someone who has been unutterably changed by their experiences. Continue reading “Review: The Odyssey, Derby Theatre”