The Entertainer

John Osborne

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Set against the backdrop of post-war Britain, John Osborne’s The Entertainer conjures the seedy glamour of the old music halls for an explosive examination of public masks and private torment.

First staged at the Royal Court Theatre, London, only eleven months after the opening of Look Back in Anger, the play has become a classic of twentieth-century drama.

Critic Reviews

Osborne elided the ailing world of the variety hall with microcosmic slices of troubled family life, creating a portrait of a disintegrating artist and a state-of-the-nation play at the same time.

Critic Reviews

Those seeking a night of laugh-out-loud entertainment, though, be warned: if they do, the joke’s on them. National decline and personal failure is, now as then, at root a serious business.

Critic Reviews

There couldn't be a better moment for a revival of John Osborne's The Entertainer – that great, smouldering cry of anguish at Britain's changing face and its loss of identity in a post-imperial world.

What's On Stage
Critic Reviews

Rice is the clapped-out vaudevillian who personifies the decline of Britain in a piece, set during the Suez crisis, that draws a potent parallel between the last gasp of the music hall tradition and the fag end of imperial power.

Critic Reviews

Osborne's evocative portrait of a man – and a nation – in freefall.

The Stage
Critic Reviews

The brilliance of Osborne’s play lies in its use of the dying music hall as a metaphor for the declining British empire. Osborne’s protagonist, Rice, is a clapped-out comic staving off bankruptcy as he tours a shoddy nude revue round the halls. But Osborne was also writing at the moment when the illegal British seizing of the Suez canal, about to be nationalised by Colonel Nasser, looked like a last desperate throw of the imperial dice and divided the country. All that is represented in the play when Archie’s dad, Billy, laments the way the Brits are pushed around by foreigners even as daughter Jean has joined the passionate anti-Suez protests in Trafalgar Square. If ever there was a state-of-the-nation play, this is it.


John Osborne was born in London in 1929. Before becoming a playwright he worked as a journalist, assistant stage manager and repertory theatre actor. Seeing an advertisement for new plays in The Stage in 1956, Osborne submitted Look Back in Anger. Not only was the play produced, but it was to become considered as the turning point in post-war British…

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