Though some elements may be contextually irrelevant in Nepal, many theatre goers will relate to the brooding angst and dissatisfaction of the characters.
KAUSAL RAJ SAPKOTA
In a brooding atmosphere heavy with eerie violins and the threat of an emotional thunderstorm, John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger as presented by Garden Theatre opens in a small drab apartment set in 1950s working-class England. As the production artfully explores a battlefield of contrasts, relationships, and disappointment, the audience journeys with the characters through their attempts to love one another in a world that rejects them as strongly as they have rejected it.
Osborne’s play follows the story of Jimmy (Divya Dev Panta) and Alison Porter (Akanchha Karki), a young and unhappily married couple who appear hell-bent on ripping one another’s self-esteem to shreds. Living with them is Jimmy’s best friend Cliff Lewis (Sulakshan Bharati) who, over time, has also become a very close friend and ally to Alison. Helena Charles (Gunjan Dixit) joins in the second act as the snobbish friend from out of town. These four educated, disillusioned, and vulnerably insecure people represent a group of angry intellectuals that Osborne may have belonged to when he wrote the play at the age of 26.
Though some elements of the production may be contextually irrelevant in Nepal 60 years later, many theatre goers will relate to the brooding angst and dissatisfaction of the characters. Their unhappiness with the world creeps into their relationships, creating one destructive interaction after another, and in turn making the infrequent tender moments so much more heartbreaking to witness.
While at times the play seems to be a platform for Jimmy Porter (and therefore John Osborne) to complain about all that is wrong with the world (much in the style of Holden Caulfield), the cast does a fine job of using the text to examine the complexity of platonic, erotic, and familial relationships. Bharati’s energetic yet tender performance as Cliff comes as a welcome contrast to the brooding and pained Jimmy who seems only able to show love when it’s too late. This unlikely pair of longstanding friends is nonetheless destined for success both on the stage and within the world of the play, with a great physical and emotional connection only true friends can display.
A more likely yet more tragic pair of friends, Alison and Helena have seen their lives go in quite different directions: Alison suffocates in her marriage while Helena thrives in her acting career. But circumstance reunites them just in time. Helena, as well as Alison’s father (Colonel Radfern, played by Suraj Malla), is a remnant glimpse into the upper-class world of sophisticates that Alison left behind to be with Jimmy. These four characters—friends, enemies, lovers, allies—clash throughout the play, ultimately brimming over with unhappiness and only a splash of love.
During the entire performance an image of Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, the brooding and abusive yet unforgettably charming icon of American theatre, hangs over the dingy apartment these characters share. Whether as inspiration, aspiration, or parallel for the playwright, the main character, or both, the image serves as a flashback to other ill-fated relationships of the stage. This visual cue and the powerful performances from the cast leave the audience questioning why these friends hurt each other in such awful ways, and how they could possibly love—or believe they love—one another in spite of it all. Perhaps the answer lies within our own relationships, which we are inevitably left to consider after attending this worthwhile performance.
Look back in anger
Design & Direction Shankar Rijal
Until 1 December
Mandala Theatre, Anamnagar