Look Back in Anger (1956) is a John Osborne play—made into films in 1959, 1980, and 1989—about a love triangle involving an intelligent and educated but disaffected young man of working class origin (Jimmy Porter), his upper-middle- class, impassive wife (Alison), and her haughty best friend (Helena Charles). Cliff, an amiable Welsh lodger, attempts to keep the peace. The play was a success on the London stage, and spawned the term “angry young men” to describe Osborne and those of his generation who employed the harshness of realism in the theatre in contrast to the more escapist theatre that characterized the previous generation.

《憤怒中回首(Look Back in Anger, 1956)》是約翰·奧斯本 (John Osborne)成名作,曾分別在1959、1980和1989年 被翻拍成電影。劇中主人公吉米·波特(Jimmy Porter)出生 於普通工人家庭,靠自學獲得知識,他對周圍社會的虛偽十 分敏感,但又找不到旁人來分擔猶豫和痛苦,因而感到孤 獨。他憎惡著所在的冷酷社會、無聊生活和偽善人群,卻始終沒有主動去尋找解決這些社會問題的辦法。然而此刻, 妻子懷孕出走,突現的情人改變了生活,真誠的朋友選擇離 開,吉米真正地陷入了絕望。為了贏回失去之生活,他開始 被迫正視這個復雜人生和矛盾自我,甚至挺身反抗……


Look Back in Anger was a strongly autobiographical piece based on Osborne’s unhappy marriage to actress Pamela Lane and their life in cramped accommodation in Derby. While Osborne aspired towards a career in theatre, Lane was of a more practical and materialistic persuasion, not taking Osborne’s ambitions seriously while cuckolding him with a local dentist. It also contains much of Osborne’s earlier life, the wrenching speech of seeing a loved one die being, for example, a replay of the death of Thomas, Osborne’s father. What it is best remembered for, though, are Jimmy’s tirades. Some of these are directed against generalised British middle-class smugness in the post-atomic world. Many are directed against the female characters, and this is a very distinct echo of the playwright’s profoundly uneasy relations with women, starting with his mother Nellie Beatrice, described by Osborne in his autobiography A Better Class of Person as “hypocritical, self-absorbed, calculating and indifferent”. Madeline, the lost love Jimmy pines for, is based on Stella Linden, an older rep-company actress who first encouraged Osborne to write. After the first production in London, Osborne began a relationship with Mary Ure, who played Alison, and divorced his wife to marry Ure in 1957. The play was premiered at London’s Royal Court Theatre, on 8 May 1956 by the English Stage Company under the direction of Tony Richardson, setting by Alan Tagg, and music for songs by Tom Eastwood. The press release called the author an angry young man, a phrase that came to represent a new movement in 1950s British theatre. Legend has it that audiences gasped at the sight of an ironing board on a London stage. The cast was as follows: Kenneth Haigh (Jimmy), Alan Bates (Cliff), Mary Ure (Alison), Helena Hughes (Helena) and John Welsh (Colonel Redfern).

該劇可說是作者自身早期生活的一段真實寫照。奧斯本 1929年12月12日出生於倫敦郊區,父親是商品圖案設計 師,母親是酒吧女招待。他的童年在貧窮和疾病的痛苦中 度過。1941年,父親病逝後,奧斯本和母親相依為命,在戰 爭歲月中掙紮。他先後在商業雜誌謀事,又擔任過小演員 的教師。1948年轉而演戲,也擔任導演,在英國各地上演一些定期輪演劇目,還不時以演員兼演出人的身份舉辦戲劇節的演出活動。 這期間,他遇上了女演員帕梅拉·雷恩(Pamela Lane),並與之結為夫妻。但婚 後,妻子對他的事業不諒解、冷嘲熱諷,甚至對他不忠,這一切讓他更加陰鬱、 忿然,婚姻最終走向失敗。

也許歸咎於個人原因,奧斯本戲劇的一貫主題是“揭露和批評社會對人的不 公,與人的隔離和對個性的禁錮以及社會給予人的毀滅性打擊”,戲劇基調就 是“憤怒”,批判、抨擊著社會等級制度和不平等。正因此,他成為了50年代英國 文學一個新流派“憤怒的青年(” Angry Young Men)之代表。其早期劇作真實反映了一個定期輪演劇目演員在二十世纪五十年代初所能有的体验,這些作品曾在小城鎮演出,但並未受到重視。直到1956年5月8日,《憤怒中回首》在倫敦皇家宮廷劇院 首次公演,憑藉其所具有的思想沖擊力和藝術感染力,奧斯本一夜成名。劇作很快從倫敦搬向 歐洲主要城市以及大洋彼岸的美國百老匯,並在次年,斬獲了托尼獎“最佳劇作”以及“最佳女演 員”的提名。

The following year, the production moved to Broadway under producer David Merrick and director Tony Richardson. Retaining the original cast but starring Vivienne Drummond as Helena, it would receive three Tony Award nominations including for Best Play and Best Dramatic Actress for Ure.

時至今日,歷經半個世紀的風行草偃,仍有大批作家跟隨奧斯本腳步,在“憤怒”和“自省”的路上 前行。也許正如奧斯本所說:“這封信是用來表達恨意。獻給我的同胞們──那些褻瀆我的祖國 的同胞。那些胡作非為、奸佞卑鄙、將祖國導入萬劫不復之境的同胞…但願我的恨意讓我能夠苦 撐下去,我相信可以。”


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