The ‘Anger Period and after’, marked a turning-point in English dramatic history. From the 1950s, something unexpected began to stir up in English drama. Young playwrights like Osborne, Delany, Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Ann Jellicose Wesker, Bolt, Simpson, a new John Whiting etc., began to shun the theatrical sensibilities of the upper and middle – classes, something already happening in the theatrical universe of continental Europe. Cornish and Ketels (1985: ix) state that “A novel self – awareness burst with peculiar intensity upon young writers seeking a forum for their message of dissatisfaction with things as they were”.
This need for a change, of consciousness was provoked by John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger-a play “rejected by twenty-five managers and agents by the time George Devine” of the Royal Court Theatre, “rowed himself out of the barge where Osborne was living to announce that Look Back in Anger would be the third production of the court”. The staging of this play on May 8, 1956, changed the face of the British theatre. This brash drama lashed out against the prejudices and morality of the bourgeoisie. Cornish and Ketels observe that the play:
sparked an extraordinary renaissance in playwriting, acting, directing, and stage design. It put into the language of the theatre criticism new phrases… “Kitchen sinks drama” and “angry young men”. It established a working class milieu and made some acerbic criticism of society a dramatic staple. A generation of playwrights was emboldened by Osborne’s success to write about life in the rented bed – sitters of London and the workers’ cottages of grimy industrial towns across England. Gas, Stove, sink, creaking wooden chairs and bare kitchen tables replaced the earlier fashionable decors with their over – stuffed comforts, velvet draperies, and stylish paintings. At last the stage was beginning to suggest the quality of life enjoyed by the majority rather than the chosen few.
The galvanising influence of Look Back in Anger is quite enormous. It gives the British theatre a nudge to become more political in resonance, to question fresh subjects like homosexuality, feminism, sexual permissiveness, and other problems of a disintegrating society. In fact, since the premiere of Look Back in Anger in 1956, the British theatre becomes what Herbert Blau calls “The Public Art of Crisis” (Corrigan). As Corrigan notes, the theatre that emerged has been “a theatre which reveal man detached from the machinery of society, one in which man is defined by his solitude and estrangement, and not by his participation, one in which man is left face to face with himself” (The Theatre in Search of a Fix, p.270).