Apropos of yesterday’s post, the British (and Germans) are stepping in where U.S. critics and publishers fear to tread. I am informed that Methuen is planning a survey of American playwrights similar to their recent Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights, to be edited by Martin Middeke of the University of Augsburg and Peter Paul Schnierer of the University of Heidelberg, who also edited the volume on British plays.
Of course, turnabout is fair play; Terry Teachout’s sensitive, informed, and largely positive review of the recently opened revival of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger at the Roundabout appears in the Wall Street Journal today. Mr. Teachout:
It’s easy enough to see why Look Back in Anger made so electrifying an impression in 1956. But Mr. Osborne assumes an awareness of Jimmy’s cultural context that most modern-day Americans simply don’t have. He is a member of the first generation of working-class Britons to have received a college education, which fostered in them a sense of possibility that was thwarted by the country’s rigidly stratified class system. Hence his venomous anger at postwar England’s “sycophantic, phlegmatic and pusillanimous” upper middle classes, among whom the right accent was far more valuable than a high IQ. In America, where class and money are largely interchangeable, such rage makes no sense, and Jimmy himself is a wholly alien figure, a poverty-stricken slum dweller who opens Look Back in Anger by complaining about the “posh papers” that he reads every Sunday: “Different books — same reviews.” It’s as if Stanley were griping to Stella about how the cartoons in The New Yorker aren’t as clever as they used to be.
The full review is here.