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October 12 , 2009

Before Anger - Two Early Plays: The Devil Inside Him & Personal Enemy


The first performance of Look Back in Anger in 1956 ushered in a new period of British theatre, and its success established the previously unknown John Osborne as a new playwright of the first rank. Contrary to popular perception, Look Back was not Osborne's first play to be performed, and two of his early plays had already enjoyed professional productions. Copies of the scripts, thought to have been lost, were rediscovered in the British Library in 2008, and are presented for the first time here.

The Devil Inside Him (1950) was the 21 year-old Osborne's earliest attempt at a full-length play, and concerns a young Welshman, Huw, at odds with the hypocrisy and imaginative poverty of his community. It was re-written with help from Osborne's then-lover, Stella Linden.

Personal Enemy (1955) was written with Anthony Creighton with whom Osborne later collaborated with on Epitaph for George Dillon. Set in small-town America during summer of 1953 - at the height of the anti-communist witch-hunts - the play tells the story of a family torn apart by a country's political, and sexual, paranoia.

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Look Back in Anger

In 1956 John Osborne's Look Back in Anger changed the course of English theatre.'Look Back in Anger presents post-war youth as it really is. To have done this at all would be a significant achievement; to have done it in a first play is a minor miracle. All the qualities are there, qualities one had despaired of ever seeing on…

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