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BWW REVIEW: 60 Years After Breaking New Ground For British Theatre, Red Line Production Brings LOOK BACK IN ANGER To Sydney Audiences.

Friday 19th August 2016, Old Fitz Theatre, Wolloomooloo

A gripping expression of a not too distant past is exposed with honesty and raw emotion in LOOK BACK IN ANGER. The importance of John Osborne's three act play on life in working class England is honoured in Red Line Production's staging of the first "angry young man" story 60 years after it first premiered at London's Royal Court Theatre.

Directors Lizzie Schebesta and Damien Ryan have presented the story of a Jimmy Porter's (Andrew Henry) fiery relationships with wife Alison (Melissa Bonne), her friend Helena Charles (Chantelle Jamieson) and lodger Cliff Lewis (Robin Goldsworhty) with a passion and integrity that ensures the characters refrain from turning into caricatures. The premise of the story is that Jimmy and wife Alison, though both well educated, are from vastly different backgrounds. He is from a working class family with a childhood haunted by witnessing death but supported by strong bonds with his friend Hugh and his mother. She comes from an upper middle class military family and has lived the life that mingled with London 'society'. She fell in love with him, against her parent's wishes, for his rebellion against the establishment and the world from whence she came but she reverts as time goes on and whilst his resistance is unchanged, she's not as committed to his beliefs causing a rift that not even calm, peacekeeping Cliff can contain. In addition to Alison's withdrawal, Jimmy must also deal with Alison's best friend Helena Charles who is even more tied to upper middle class ideals and proves to be another catalyst for his anger to erupt. Lacking an alternative outlet for his frustration and emotion, Jimmy's anger explodes with an amazingly colourful and eloquent venom, frequently directed at his impassive wife and the provocative Helena.

Colin Emmerton (Set Construction) has created a detailed space for the fireworks to erupt, further highlighting the near poverty and the cramped condition of a top floor Midlands apartment where Jimmy and Alison live with Cliff, and later Helen. Rising damp, peeling wallpaper, tatty armchairs, and a basic twin bed in the corner of the living room highlight the basic existence.

Andrew Henry as Jimmy Porter (Photo: John Marmaras)

Andrew Henry captures the young man's rage and inner conflict with a textured, confronting performance. Maintaining the Midlands accent, Henry ensures Jimmy's expressive and detailed tirades are all clearly understood, infusing the performance with a beautiful balance of intensity and sensitivity. He switches from what seems to be a playful ribbing of friend and perceived intellectual inferior Cliff to having similar jeers lined with a poisonous contempt for Alison and an outright dislike for Helena when she challenges his behaviour. His captures the volatile outbursts and contrasts them with the fear, grief and sensitivity that exposes that, more than anything, Jimmy needs to be loved, not changed.

Robin Goldsworhty as Cliff Lewis, Andrew Henry as Jimmy Porter and Melissa Bonne as Alison Porter (Photo: John Marmaras)

As the numb wife that exists with her husband, seemingly longing for a life she gave up marrying Jimmy, Melissa Bonne creates the initially perfect picture, ensuring that Alison's 'breading' and heritage is evident in her deportment and expression even as she irons shirts. The veil of 'keeping up appearances' of the Squirrel and Bear banter that once symbolised their love can be taken at face value to be a woman playing along even though she sees the game as juvenile, but Bonne gradually exposes that the situation has gone beyond a fatigue with the games. Osborne has painted Alison as somewhat callous and uncaring and Bonne conveys this by giving her an indifference to Jimmy and an affection towards Cliff.

Chantelle Jamieson as Helena Charles and Andrew Henry as Jimmy Porter (Photo: John Marmaras)

Chantelle Jamison, as the third corner to the eventual love triangle, captures Helena's confidence and fire as she faces off against Jimmy. Jamison presents Helena as potentially more modern and progressive than Alison, in her views and also her styling which would also be attributed to her career as an actress. Whilst Alison does not rise to meet Jimmy's anger, Helena does and the chemistry between Jamison and Henry is electric and it is more plausible that these two firecrackers would be together than Daddy's Little Good Girl Alison and the Angry Young Man.

Robin Goldsworhty as Cliff Lewis and Andrew Henry as Jimmy Porter (Photo: John Marmaras)

Rounding out the quartet, Robin Goldsworhty gives seemingly quiet Cliff a textured development as he initially is seen as Jimmy's verbal punching bag but also his closest friend. Maintaining a calm, lilting Welsh accent, Goldsworhty diffuses the fire between Jimmy and Alison but is thwarted when Helena arrives. It's in these exchanges that Cliff gets to have his own turn to fire up and Goldsworhty delivers his anger in a more controllEd Manner than Jimmy, highlighting the contrast between the two characters.

Robin Goldsworhty as Cliff Lewis and Andrew Henry as Jimmy Porter (Photo: John Marmaras)

Red Line have delivered another beautifully honest, emotional and poignant glimpse into another time and society with LOOK BACK IN ANGER. Apparently based on Osborne's own life, Schebesta and Ryan have ensured that even in the extreme moments there is a truth and a credibility to what unfolds on stage. LOOK BACK IN ANGER is an important work that is still relevant in the 21st Century as it was in the 20th Century as people need outlets to release anger or know how to manage it without descending into mental health issues or hurting themselves and those around them.

LOOK BACK IN ANGER

Old Fitz Theatre, Woolloomooloo 16th August - 10th September 2016

Belvoir - Downstairs Theatre: 13th September - 17th September 2016.


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