Look Back In Anger 2

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Group B (Angoltanár mesterképzés)

Nádházy Albert:

Look Back In Anger 2.0

(After Fifty Years in Hungary)


I. The Creator of the Angry Young Men

Jimmy Porter:” You think I did it on purpose?”

John Osborne was born in December 1929 in London, the son of Thomas Godfrey Osborne, a commercial artist and advertising copywriter, and Nellie Beatrice, a Cockney barmaid. He adored his father and hated his mother maybe that is why that some of his characters seem to be misogynist. Thomas died in 1941, leaving the young boy an insurance settlement which he used to finance a private education at Belmont College, a minor public school in Devon. He entered the school in 1943 but was expelled in the summer term of 1945 after whacking the headmaster, who had struck him for listening to a forbidden broadcast by Frank Sinatra. It was his first rebellion against the ‘modern’ twentieth century Britain.

After school, Osborne went home to his mother in London and briefly tried trade journalism. A job tutoring a touring company of junior actors introduced him to the theatre. He soon became involved as a stage manager and acting, joining Anthony Creighton’s provincial touring company. Osborne tried his hand at writing plays, co-writing his first, The Devil Inside Him, with his mentor Stella Linden, who then directed it at the Theatre Royal in Huddersfield in 1950. Around this time he also married Pamela Lane. They lived in cramped accommodation in Derby while she cuckolded him with a local dentist.. (maybe that is why that some of his characters seem to be misogynist?!). His second play Personal Enemy was written with Anthony Creighton and staged in regional theatres before he submitted Look Back in Anger.

II. The Kitchen Sink Drama

Jimmy Porter:” I'm getting hungry.”

The idea of the Kitchen Sink drama was a revelation for British theatre. The play writers of most British theatre before Look Back in Anger favoured Victorian dramas and comedies or staging of classical plays. In a general sense, the Victorian plays dealt mostly with polite themes from the late 19th and early 20th century upper ruling class. In contrast, Osborne's play depicted the raw emotions and living conditions of the working class. This style of theatre was given the name "Kitchen Sink" because of its focus on the interior domestic and


emotional lives of ordinary people. In the case of Look Back in Anger, the kitchen is literally a part of the set.

Look Back in Anger is a play that appeared in a time of crucial transition from Britain's Victorian past into the modern twentieth century. Jimmy's rage and anger is his expression of pent-up emotion and his need for life in a world that has become listless and uninteresting. That anger became a symbol of the rebellion against the political and social malaise of British culture. His anger is destructive to those around him and the psychological violence of the play can be shocking but helps to understand the British life in the twentieth century. Jimmy Porter the play's main character became the model for the "Angry Young Man," a nickname given to an entire generation of artists and working class young men in post-World War II British society. The cultural backdrop is the rise and fall of the British Empire. The beginning of the twentieth century saw the peak of power and influence of British colonialism. By the 1950's, two World Wars, which devastated the British economy, and the rise of the United States as the new world military and political power meant that the British Empire had entered a steep decline.

“You’re hurt because everything is changed. Jimmy is hurt because everything is the same. And neither of you can face it.”

The Angry Young Men were a new breed of intellectuals who were mostly of working class or of lower middle-class origin. Some had been educated at the post war red-brick universities at the state’s expense, though a few were from Oxford. They shared an outspoken irreverence for the British class system, its traditional network of pedigreed families, and the elitist Oxford and Cambridge universities. They showed an equally uninhibited disdain for the drabness of the post war welfare state, and their writings frequently expressed raw anger and frustration as the post war reforms failed to meet exalted aspirations for genuine change.


III. The Hungarian connection

"I suppose people of our generation aren't able to die for good causes any longer. We had all that done for us, in the thirties and the forties, when we were still kids. ...There aren't any good, brave causes left."

This quote demonstrates a central theme of the play: the way in which past and present are intertwined. Jimmy often sees himself as a product of Britain's great past, its empires and conquests. In this quote, Jimmy uses the specific example of the British defeat of the Nazi's in World War II as Britain's last great cause. In this past, he sees a noble and fulfilling state of being. The present, on the other hand, is an unfulfilling time in which the British age has been replaced by a "dreary" American age. Jimmy is, of course, idealizing the past, yet this

nostalgia causes him to feel even more anger and dissatisfaction towards the present.

In Hungary we cannot speak about the “great past” after losing two wars and being occupied by the Soviet Union for decades. The only exception is 1956 when we tried to do an

impossible mission. We were defeated but the whole world admired us. We were the Heroes, David against Goliat,but somehow we lost the magic sling...

The situation is similar in Hungary after 1989 as it was in the 1950’s in Britain.. There is a generation between the dead communism and the newborn capitalism and it does not know what to do. Their parents had time to learn the rules of the “goulash” communism and their children will have time to learn the new rules. All the important position is taken by the “Top Dogs” who graduated in Moscow and whose children graduated somewhere in West Europe or in the USA. Although the Hungarian colleges and the universities (the red brick ones?)are full of with the “Sad Dogs” children , Sad Dogs remain Sad Dogs. No chance if you are an outsider not a member of a “Top Dogs” Clan. And the thousands of “Sad Dogs” who lost their meaningless job, their social security and even their home too are getting angry. There are thousands “Hordár Jakab” with no hopeful future. That is why “Look Back in Anger” is very popular in our country and almost every theatre director is interested in it.

Let’s see the list of the theatres when and where “Look Back In Anger” was staged in Hungary in the last decade.


13th October, 2000.., Szegedi Nemzeti Színház; 9th October , 2003.., Thália Színház;

14th October ,2003.., Jászai Mari Színház, Népház; 9th November, 2007. ., Pécsi Nemzeti Színház; 12th April, 2008. ., Soproni Petőfi Színház,; 15th October, 2010.., Budapesti Kamaraszínház;

15th October, 2010.., Kecskeméti Katona József Színház

Look Back In Anger was on the playbill in five cities and thousands of theatre goer saw it and liked it. Why? Because it is close to us : it could happen in our country too.

And now let’s play and make a short play synopsis of the Hungarian version of Look Back In Anger.

IV. Look Back In Anger 2.0 (How we do it in Hungary)

Jimmy Porter:” What made you come to this bloody country anyway?”

The play opens with two men reading the Blikk ( a Hungarian tabloid.), Hordár Jakab (who is a character of psychological complexity and interest. He dominates the play through the power of his anger and language. He unleashes his invective on what he calls the

Establishment (those "born" to power and privilege), the church (as part of the

Establishment), and his loved ones. Although Jakab has graduated from a university—albeit one with no prestige—he works with Béla as owner/proprietor of a small grocery) and his lodger, Béla ( who is Jimmy's friend and partner in a small grocery and shares the Hordárs' flat, with his own bedroom across the hall. Béla is a poorly educated, working class man of Gipsy heritage. He is warm, loving, and humorous. )

Jakab's wife, Erzsi, (who comes from the upper-middle-class Establishment. Her brother Nigel attended ELTE, and is a Member of Parliament. She married Jimmy partly as a rebellion against the proper, predictable, stultifying precepts of her class. However, she has


been influenced by many establishment values and it is her "fence sitting," her lack of total emotional commitment that provokes Jimmy's attacks.) is doing the ironing whilst wearing one of Jakab's shirts. It emerges that Erzsi and Jakab come from two sides of the class divide-Erzsi is the daughter of an under-secretary in the Hungarian Ministry of Home Affairs and upper middle class, Jakab is the first generation of his family to be educated and still feels strongly tied to his working class roots.

Jakab is angry not just because of Erzsi’s parents have made a Security Ltd. and make a lot of money working for Hungarian Ministry of Home Affairs but because of her personally. In a strong verbal attack, he demeans her in front of Béla.

In the second act, Erzsi's friend (Lujza) comes to stay and tells her that living with Jakab is a big mistake. She gets in touch with her family, and asks that they take her away. However, Lujza may have mixed motives. Despite the fact that Jakab is enormously dismissive of her, they argue bitterly when Erzsi leaves. And, they end up in each other's arms.

With the third act, we see that Lujza replaced Alison, and she irons Jakab 's shirt. Their relationship seems to be better than the one between Jakab and Erzsi, but the relative peace is broken by Erzsi returning. She tells Lujza that she lost the baby that Jakab fathered (and whose existence she hid from him earlier in the play). Then, Erzsi and Lujza become friends once more.

The revelation makes Lujza realize her own guilt in coming between them, and she

determines to leave. Jakab, as is his way, dismisses Lujza sarcastically. However, the play does seem to end on a note of hope, with the possibility of reconciliation between Erzsi and Jakab, as they play a silly game that they once used to play.

Maybe it was a booby-trap but I think it can show the parallels between the 1950’s of Britain and the last decade of the twentieth century in Hungary.

Jimmy Porter:"Oh heavens, how I long for a little ordinary human enthusiasm. Just enthusiasm -- that's all. I want to hear a warm, thrilling voice cry out Hallelujah!...Hallelujah! I'm alive!"


Look Back In anger was translated into Hungarian by Géza Ottlik (who had translated novels and plays from Dickens, G.B. Shaw, and O’Neil etc. before he started working in this play.) It was first published by Európa Könykiadó in 1957 only one year after it was originally written by Osborne! It was republished in 1958, 1965 and 1990! I think it was a direct hit to

republish it again in the year when everything started to change in Hungary and a new generation appeared: the generation of the transformation of regime.

Although it is a British play and was written in English, it can be easily adopted in Hungary. That is one reason why I have chosen it. What is the other reason? It is that I am one of the thousands of Hungarian “Hordár Jakabs” and I am getting angry...



-John Osborne - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Url:




John Osborne - Biography, Movies, Photos, Videos, News ...



John Osborne - eNotes.com Reference, Url:




Look Back in Anger Background | GradeSaver, Url:



-Angry Young Men (British literary group) -- Britannica Online ...



Book Review: 'Look Back in Anger' Review



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