On Saturday, we went to our other favorite city, New York, for dinner with our good friends Dan and Marie Scapperotti (he late of Cinefantastique and Femme Fatales fame) and the Roundabout revival of the seminal “angry young man” play, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger. This is the first time I’ve caught any of Osborne’s work onstage, although I’d seen the screen adaptations of both that and The Entertainer made by Woodfall Productions, the company Osborne formed with Liam Neeson’s father-in-law, Tony Richardson, who had directed both plays. The films teamed Richardson and Osborne—who later scripted Tom Jones (1963) for Woodfall—with future Bond producer Harry Saltzman, co-scenarist Nigel Kneale, and crack cinematographer Oswald Morris.
The 1959 film of Anger reunited Richardson with Mary Ure, who had created the role of Alison Porter in London and earned a Tony nomination when she played it on Broadway, also matching Richard Burton with Ure and Claire Bloom, his respective leading ladies in Where Eagles Dare (1968) and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965). Osborne left his wife for Ure, who then divorced him to marry frequent co-star Robert Shaw, who then cheated on her with his secretary; Ure’s unhappy life ended in 1975, at 42, with an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates. Because the play kicked off British “kitchen sink” realism—e.g., Woodfall’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and A Taste of Honey (1961)—I was hungry for the full impact of seeing it live.
The play relentlessly dramatizes the emotional wounds inflicted upon one another by Alison; her trumpet-playing husband, Jimmy; their flatmate, Cliff, with whom Jimmy runs a candy store; and her actress friend, Helena. It’s grueling (we later learned that a friend from our church choir had walked out of the matinee with his wife that very day!), but the cast—especially Matthew Rhys, who as Jimmy resembled and at times seemed to be channeling fellow Welshman Burton—was electrifying and the staging brilliant. The set was only about four feet deep; as an actor, I’d be in constant terror of falling off, yet it evoked the claustrophobic flat where one could scarcely move without touching another person, visualizing what Cliff calls “a very narrow strip of plain hell.”
Addendum: Remember my repeated threats—er, promises—that my contributions to Marvel University would continue to increase? Well, I’m making good on those by taking the point (i.e., providing the synopses and primary analysis) on one of my all-time favorite strips, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., which at its peak reached unsurpassed brilliance under writer/artist Jim Steranko. So check out today’s post, as the strip debuts alongside the equally classic Stan Lee/Steve Ditko Dr. Strange in Strange Tales #135, and in the immortal words of Agent Jasper Sitwell, “Don’t Yield—back S.H.I.E.L.D.!”