The Power of Sound

Karl May had a mixed but mostly positive experience at a recent Dublin play.

In this day and age, a play about marital struggles and volatile relationships is all too common. However, Look Back in Anger is an exception. The play successfully portrays the hardships that both sexes have to face and how their relationships with each other lead to many problems and tragedies.

The recent production of the play at the Gate Theatre was a welcome interpretation, especially in this society with the #MeToo Movement and the mental-health crisis among millennials.

Look Back in Anger is a realist play written by John Osbourne. It was inspired by his own personal struggles and his unhappy marriage to his wife. The play explores the marital life of a young couple in 1950s England and how their relationship affects them and those around them.

In the recent Gate production, directed by Annabelle Comyn, the cast gave it their all and told a suspenseful story full of personal struggles that left the audience unsettled.

The play tells the story of a young married couple, Jimmy and Allison. The two come from different class backgrounds and the pair have a strange relationship with hints of emotional abuse from Jimmy directed at his wife. Their relationship takes its toll on Cliff, Jimmy’s friend and Helena, Allison’s actress friend, who is despised by Jimmy.

“The recent production of the play at the Gate Theatre was a welcome interpretation, especially in this society with the #MeToo Movement and the mental-health crisis among millennials”

The four are faced with many difficulties such as the deaths of loved ones, class differences and gender politics. In reality, all four harbour mental-health problems, which cause the tension and friction in the household.

The stage in the Gate Theatre showed a small, cramped attic room, yet it was surrounded by a backstage area that ruined the mood of the play, as the audience could clearly see the changing area and the sound effects being produced. Comyn and set designer Paul O’Mahony attempted their best with their limited budget but the stage design just fell flat and distracted the audience from the performers and the play itself.

One of the standout moments of the play was the use of sound. Sound was a theme that Comyn wanted to use in the play and there were many examples such as church bells, trumpets blaring, heavy rain and the washing of clothes. These sounds played an important role in the play as they helped deliver the characters’ emotions and added suspense that thrilled the audience.

All four actors delivered well-received performances. Jimmy (Ian Toner) stole the show as a disturbing yet eccentric anti-hero, who terrified his emotionally unstable wife Allison (Clare Dunne), who was perfectly cast. Cliff (Lloyd Cooney) was likeable and added plenty of comedic relief to a gritty production and Helena (Vanessa Emme) put on both a strong and interesting performance.

Look Back in Anger is a classic that will hold symbolism in any society with its strong themes and relatable characters. Osbourne helped shape the “angry young man” generation and the Gate, despite some setbacks, offered an entertaining production.

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