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JOHN OSBORN (1929 – 1994)


He was son of Thomas Godfrey Osborn, a commercial artist of South Welsh extraction and his wife Neille, a Cockney barmaid.
In 1935 the family moved to a Surry suburb in search of a better life, though Osborn would regard it as a cultural desert.
John loved his father and didn’t like his mother. His father died in 1941 leaving his son an insurance settlement he could use to finance a private education at Belmont College i. He was expelled in 1945. So he had a School Certificate, he didn’t attend any university, but he possessed a native intelligence. After school, he tried trade journalism and became an actor.
His major plays:
Look Back in Anger (1956)
The Entertainer (1957)
Luther (1961)
A Patriot for Me (1966)
 Inadmissible Evidence (1964)
Damn You, England (1994)
Looking Back (1999), autobiography
He became diabetic and died at age 65 from complications. He had 5 wives.
May 8, 1956: English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre in London. The play was directed by Tony Richardson.
Context: both in theatre and society something complex was happening.
Tensions between old and youth culture
Britain vs America – British imitated unsuccessfully American manners
Middle-class conservatism vs descent
The Suez crisis (1956)
The campaign for nuclear disarmament
The theatre mirrored the social divisions within Britain.
Osborn used the Music Hall (theatrical entertainment popular in the Victorian period) as a metaphor of England.
The play is a state-of-the-nation play.
In august 1955 George Devine the artistic director of the English stage Company had put an advert stating that his company was looking for plays by young play writers. Osborn sent his script of Look Back in Anger and was offered £25 for it.
The play was shocking because of the domestic setting (Alison is ironing). It was different from the well-made plays.
The language: variety of regional accents, more colloquial.
Different characters, language and settings.
 Through his long speeches he attacks English institutions.
Critics were mix: both negative and positive comments (ex: Kemeth Tynan)
In November 1956 the play was televised giving the play the widest possible publicity.
Characters: Jimmy Porter (working class), Alison Porte (Upper class), Cliff Lewis (friend), Alison’s mother, the Colonel (figure from the past).
Jimmy is not satisfied with his wife and society. Alison has a conservative family and she’s elusive.
Later in the play he finds out Alison is pregnant. She leaves Jimmy and goes back to her father’s place, but then she will be back again (kind of reconciliation). She has a friend who’s an actress and has an affair with Jimmy. Alison instead has a special relationship with Cliff.
Recurrent idea of making tea – cliché.
di Valentina Ligabue
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