Struggling actor makes a return

Alison (Robin Hall) and Jimmy Porter (Mark Woodhouse).
Alison (Robin Hall) and Jimmy Porter (Mark Woodhouse).
Tom Chambers as Bobby in Crazy For You. Picture by Richard Davenport

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A struggling actor, John Osborne, rented a hall at Hayling Island to stage a season of plays in 1950. When bills couldn’t be paid, he fled the area without paying his debt as ordered by havant magistrates.

The building was converted into the Bench Theatre 20 years later – now the amateur dramatics company which adopted the theatre’s name is staging Osborne’s 1956 play, Look Back In Anger, from Wednesday until Saturday.

Staged at The Spring, Havant, the play is set in a midlands bedsit in the 1950s.

Jimmy Porter, an intelligent but disaffected man of working-class origin, lives with his upper-middle-class wife, Alison. Their good-natured Welsh neighbour tries to keep the peace, but the marriage is threatened by the arrival of a young actress.

Director Alan Ward and actor Mark Woodhouse, who plays Jimmy, are both making their debuts with the Havant-based Bench Theatre.

Alan says: ‘I played Jimmy in 1984, and I loved him and was sympathetic to his cause. But after I moved to Aldwick in 2010 I found myself doing very safe plays.

‘Then I found the Bench website and saw the kind of productions they have done. I went to see them do Iron this February and was really impressed, so I proposed Look Back In Anger.’

He adds: ‘Initially I loved Jimmy, and I do still find him a very interesting character with a real message. You can’t play him just for anger. It is important to keep a sense of his personal charm – and I think Mark is achieving that.’

For Mark, this is a final production before he goes to the prestigious East 15 drama school in Essex.

He says: ‘What came into my head when I read the play was that Jimmy is a passionate character in a passionless age. Alison and Jimmy are trapped in their safe world but Jimmy has the energy to do something else, although he never seems to do it.’

Tickets: £6 to £8 from The Spring, Havant, on (023) 9247 2700 or go to thespring.co.uk.