The admiration of William Gaunt's Colonel Redfern for Jimmy's principles and his amusement at Jimmy's description of Mrs Redfern as “an overfed, overprivileged old bitch”, are set against his total lack of comprehension of what Jimmy's life actually means. It is clear from Osborne's script that there was no lack of a sense of life's difficulties around at the time.Alison says to him “You're hurt because everything is changed. But the emphasis had shifted from the martyred expressions of the British ruling class and their “white man's burden”, as represented in Colonel Redfern, to a more serious appraisal of life for those outside that ruling class.But despite the plot's shortcomings (which were recognised even by such a fierce admirer as Tynan), it still has the power to startle.
This enables it to show the play as standing at a crossroads both of the British stage and also of political and historical epochs.
Before the show, the title is projected onto the curtains like a jazz album cover.
In the same paper, Arnold Wesker described Osborne as having “opened the doors of theatres for all the succeeding generations of writers”.
came to exemplify a reaction to the affected drawing-room comedies of Noel Coward, Terrence Rattigan and others, which dominated the West End stage in the early 1950s.
But even these critics acknowledged that the play, written in just one month, marked a new voice on the British stage.
Howard Brenton, writing in the newspaper at the time of Osborne's death in 1994, said, “When somebody breaks the mould so comprehensively it's difficult to describe what it feels like”.The problem, which even a fine revival like this production has, is with the melodramatic qualities of the narrative.Osborne's script became almost a template for the new school of writers, and it is difficult to present his work without being aware that there is a faint whiff of formula about it.Coward et al wrote about an affluent bourgeoisie at play in the drawing rooms of their country homes, or sections of the upper middle class comfortable in suburbia.Osborne and the writers who followed him were looking at the working class or the lower middle class, struggling with their existence in bedsits or terraces.Emma Fielding does a good job playing Alison, who has grown up with the one attitude but has been forced by her situation into the other.Fielding gives a good performance as the woman who tolerates Jimmy's invective, living constantly with the threat of something erupting in front of her.Between scenes, wreaths of cigarette smoke rise up the curtains. Matilda Ziegler's Helena also captures a lost period of weekly repertory theatre, of companies travelling the country with precisely the sort of play that .It was a time when actors auditioned in suits or the sort of starched twin-pieces that Helena wears before she moves in with Jimmy. ” Or as it was put in a article from December 1959 which is quoted in the programme: “Out of this decade has come the Illusion of Comfort, and we have lost the sense of life's difficulty”.Appalled at what she finds, Helena calls Alison's father to take her away from the flat.He arrives while Jimmy is visiting the mother of a friend and takes Alison away.