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A: John Osborne Pf: 1957, London Pb: 1957 G: Drama in 13 scenes; prose and songs S: English seaside resort, 1956 C: 5m, 2fDomestic scenes of the Rice household alternate with Archie Rice's stage act. Archie is a second-rate music-hall comedian and singer, attempting to keep this traditional entertainment alive, despite telling unfunny jokes, singing maudlin songs, and facing the threat of the mass media. He lives in the shadow of his father Billy's success as a music-hall star, is bored with his marriage to the dowdy Phoebe, ten years his senior, and has an uneasy relationship with his son Frank and daughter Jean. His other son Mick is sent to fight at Suez and is killed just before he is expected home. Archie's response is to sing the blues. When Archie plans to leave Phoebe to marry a 20-year-old woman whose family might be induced to put up money for his touring show, his father Billy ruins his plans by revealing to her parents that Archie is already married. Soon after, Billy dies. Archie's daughter Jean decides that she does not want to marry the stuffy lawyer Graham Dodd and breaks off the engagement. Finally, in a desperate attempt to ‘improve’ his show, Archie introduces nude tableaux and makes sexist jokes, ending with the song: ‘Why should I care?’

A: John Osborne Pf: 1957, London Pb: 1957 G: Drama in 13 scenes; prose and songs S: English seaside resort, 1956 C: 5m, 2f

After Look Back in Anger, this was Osborne's most popular play. While Archie Rice is neither angry nor young like Jimmy Porter, both plays portray the decline into the confusions of post-war Britain from past certainties, here represented by the metaphor of the enjoyable fun of traditional music hall. Significantly, Mick loses his life at Suez, the last attempt by Britain to operate as an independent world power. The music-hall format allows for a highly theatrical episodic presentation, exploited by Laurence Olivier in the main role both on stage and screen.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).


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Authors

John Osborne (1929—1994) playwright and autobiographer


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