Look Back in Anger

Look Back at Mass Culture: Language and Culture of Britain in the 1950s

Posted on: January 12th, 2012 by Education @ Roundabout


The 1950s marked a shift in British culture; the early ‘50s laid the groundwork for this watershed period, but these changes in society were not evident until the end of the decade.

The End of High Culture

In the wake of World War II, England was caught between two cultures: the old order and a vision of what was in store for the future of British society. Class distinctions remained, but government reforms began to slowly blur the lines between the upper and middle classes.

High culture, such as classical music, opera, theatre, and fine art, had been accessible only to the upper class. But when the Conservative Party won the 1951 election, their slogan “Set the People Free,” signaled a shift from state control to individual freedom and spurred drastic changes in culture.  Traditional entertainment became enjoyable, affordable, and accessible to a new audience through radio, movies, and television. Jazz and rock-a-billy music became popular in music halls, which were turned into dance halls or torn down entirely. This new music pushed out the older audiences and made way for a new, younger audience.

Beginning of Mass Culture

Entering into the 1950s, the British felt freer, more affluent, and eager to escape the rigidity of the past. They questioned and ridiculed the cultural conventions from before and during the war.  Jazz, rock-n-roll, new movies, and television became known as the “mass culture” and were slowly accepted by the upper class. New technologies propelled Britain even further. In 1953, the television broadcast of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation increased TV sales, and the deregulation of television in 1954 opened England to the influence of American pop culture. Brits could now see how Americans were living in their economic boom.

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2011-2012 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Look Back in Anger, Upstage

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Context & Terms: Look Back in Anger

Posted on: January 12th, 2012 by Education @ Roundabout


Constituent: someone who authorizes another person to act as his or her agent

Alison tells Helena that her brother Nigel was too busy running for Parliament and winning constituents to get involved her family’s dispute with Jimmy

Cistern: a tank for storing water

Jimmy makes fun of Alison’s mother and says that she is probably in their cistern, listening in on the conversation.

Courtesan: a prostitute who serves a wealthy, upper-class clientele

Alison says that’s the kind of woman Jimmy wants.

Droning: tedious speaking; a monotonous tone

Cliff complains that Jimmy’s talk is droning.

Emily Bronte: English novelist

Jimmy compares one of Alison’s friends to Emily Bronte in an endearing way.

Genuflecting: bowing in respect

Jimmy makes fun of Helena, calling her a genuflecting sin-jobber.

H-Bomb: hydrogen bomb, a nuclear weapon

Cliff refers to the H-bomb when talking about politics.

Infallible: unable to make mistakes

Cliff tries to comfort Alison and reassure her that everyone makes mistakes in life.

Lethargy: state of being indifferent

Jimmy believes that instead of defending him, Alison would become lethargic.

Macabre: gruesome or deadly

Alison uses this word to make Helena understand her actions when it comes to Jimmy.

Phlegmatic: a cool temperament

Jimmy uses this word to describe Alison and her brother Nigel.

Pusillanimous: lack of courage

Jimmy says this word perfectly describes Alison; he uses it to hurt her.

Purgatives: something that cleanses or purges

Jimmy tries to get a rise out of Alison and uses this word to describe her mother.

Reticent: not forthcoming with one’s thoughts

Helena asks Cliff if Jimmy is reticent about himself.

Sandhurst: British military training academy

Jimmy mocks Alison’s brother Nigel for attending Sandhurst.

Sycophantic: using flattery to win someone over

Jimmy refers to Alison and her brother Nelson as sycophantic.

Vicar: cleric in charge of a chapel

Jimmy recalls his wedding day, and when he and Alison were married by a vicar.

Vestry: a room or building attached to a church.

Jimmy got sick in the vestry of the chapel that he was married in.

Virility: masculinity

Jimmy believes that his state of mind is masculine and forceful

Look Back in Anger plays at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre/Laura Pels Theatre January 13, 2012 through April 8, 2012. For more information, click here.

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2011-2012 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Look Back in Anger, Upstage

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‘Look Back in Anger’ Complete Cast Announced

Posted on: September 13th, 2011 by Roundabout


We are  pleased to announce the full cast of a new production of John Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger, directed by Roundabout Associate Artist Sam Gold.

The cast will feature Adam Driver as “Cliff,” Sarah Goldberg as “Allison,” Anastasia Griffith as “Helena,” and Matthew Rhys as “Jimmy”.

We are thrilled to welcome back Adam Driver. He is currently performing in our production of Man and Boy at the American Airlines Theatre, where he also appeared last season in Mrs. Warren’s Profession.

We are also excited to welcome so many new faces to the Roundabout family. Anastasia and Matthew are prominent British actors, best known in the States for their television work—she on Damages and he on Brothers and Sisters. Sarah is an Olivier Award nominee for her work role in The Royal Court's production of Clybourne Park.

Director Sam Gold is a Roundabout Theatre Company Associate Artist and recently staged the acclaimed production of Tigers Be Still at Roundabout Underground.

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2011-2012 Season, Look Back in Anger

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