Look Back In Anger & Jinny - Theatre ☆☆☆3

Showing from - Friday, March 4, 2016 through till Saturday, March 26, 2016

Derby Theatre - Derby

Dan Webber | Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Look Back In Anger & Jinny reviewed by Dan Webber on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 for Downstage CentreOut of time: Patrick Knowles as Jimmy Porter in 'Look Back In Anger' at the Derby Theatre (Photo by Robert Day)

As I entered Derby Theatre on Tuesday night I knew little of Look Back in Anger nor it’s newly commissioned companion piece Jinny, both directed by Derby Theatre’s Sarah Brigham.




Following productions such as Solace of The Road and Joan, the theatre is fast gaining a reputation for producing work showcasing strong female characters through their main house productions and wonderful REtold series.


Jinny, the latest REtold production, is the story of twenty-five year old Jinny Porter, an aspiring singer songwriter trapped in a post-university, pre-career existence.


Jinny is an attempt to show the anger and frustration in Derbyshire’s young women in 2016, a one-woman show performed by Joanna Simpkins and written by Chesterfield Playwright Jane Wainwright.


While I applaud the theatre for commissioning new work and creating opportunities for local writers, it was a shame the piece did not carry more of a Derby flavour: I wanted to hear Jinny discussing open mic nights at The Victoria Inn or Ryan’s Bar, or busking at the Ram or St Peters Cross on a drizzly Saturday afternoon, practices synonymous with carving out a reputation on the Derby music scene.


Is Jinny’s Derby my Derby? No, and yet I see glimpses: working with a large number of young musicians and creatives I see Jinny’s frustrations reflected in others and hear the passion and potential undefinedin her voice, the surprisingly poignant moments of song, which for me were the highlights of the performance.


Jinny is a funny and frantic reimagining of Look Back in Anger, filled with subtle references and nods to the original text. Performed as a stand-alone piece it works well, however for a true comparison I would recommend seeing Look Back in Anger first.


Look Back In Anger


It’s fair to say Look Back in Anger is a hard watch; though expertly performed by the cast, this is a masterclass in theatre but raises the question does anger work on stage? Are we alienated by Jimmy’s frustration and vulgarity or do we warm to or feel for the other characters because of it?


The classic text written sixty years ago by John Osborne (coincidentally over the road from Derby Theatre’s currently rehearsal space), focuses on Jimmy Porter (Patrick Knowles), a man angry at the world and seemingly everything in it, and none bear the brunt more than his long suffering wife Allison (Augustina Seymour) and roommate Cliff (Jimmy Fairhurst).


The 1950’s staid style, impressive attention to detail and ominous use of lighting to pre-empt a character’s arrival all add a sense of foreboding, the cramped nature of the set reflecting Jimmy’s trappings in his surroundings.


In truth I struggled to relate to both pieces, feeling too old to relate to Jinny and far too young to fully understand the complex social issues raised in Look Back in Anger. As a piece I wanted and expected more from it, I yearned for confrontations which never came and for resolutions the text did not allow. I found myself questioning large parts of the second act and decisions made by the characters therein. 


Like Jimmy himself, Look Back In Anger is a production out of it’s time, lauded as a game-changer as much as it is criticised for the misogynistic language of it’s male central character.


If you want a production full of strong performances, exquisite writing and a reflection of the suffocating nature of the 1950s then this is the performance for you, however if you like your theatre somewhat lighter and more straight-forward, it might be best you don’t look at Look Back In Anger.


Production Information

Theatre: Derby Theatre

Showing Until: Saturday, March 26, 2016

Production Company: Look Back In Anger: Derby Theatre & Octagon Theatre Bolton; Jinny: A Derby Theatre Production

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