The Entertainer is a three-act play by John Osborne, first produced in 1957. His first play, Look Back in Anger , had attracted mixed notices but a great deal of publicity.Having depicted an "angry young man" in the earlier play, Osborne wrote at Laurence Olivier's request about an angry middle-aged man in The Entertainer. Its main character is Archie Rice, a failing music-hall performer. Years later, Richardson described Archie as "the embodiment of a national mood ... Archie was the future, the decline, the sourness, the ashes of old glory, where Britain was heading." The first performance was given on 10 April 1957 at the Royal Court Theatre, London. That theatre was known for its commitment to new and nontraditional drama, and the inclusion of a West End star such as Olivier in the cast caused much interest.
The play is in three acts, sub-divided into thirteen scenes. Some are set in the Rice family's house, and others show Archie Rice on stage at the music hall.
Years later, in The Long-Distance Runner: An Autobiography, Richardson reflected on the role the play played in his life: “I couldn't have articulated it, having never been introspective...(but) The Entertainer was a key moment in my development, because all the ideas and convictions I was to work with afterward were crystallized in its making.”
Writing for TCM, Felicia Feaster reports Richardson's memories of creating the play as well as the film: "The character of Archie Rice, which tapped into aspects of Larry's personality that he'd never used before, immediately obsessed him. He accepted the play before it was even finished." After rehearsals began, Richardson recalled, “His understanding of Archie was so complete that he could make anything work. He infected everyone with his enthusiasm.“
The original music for the play was composed by John Addison.Melodies by Thomas Hastings ("Rock of Ages"), Arthur Sullivan ("Onward Christian Soldiers" and "The Absent-Minded Beggar"), and George Ware ("The Boy I Love is Up in the Gallery") are also incorporated.
The original production at the Royal Court was directed by Tony Richardson, with décor by Alan Tagg.
The show transferred in September to the Palace Theatre in the West End, toured and returned to the Palace.During the run Joan Plowright left the cast and was replaced by Geraldine McEwan. Plowright rejoined the cast when the production opened in New York in February 1958. In the same year, a touring production was presented in the British provinces, starring John Slater as Archie and Bobby Howes as Billy.
London revivals have starred Max Wall (Greenwich Theatre, 1974);Peter Bowles (Shaftesbury Theatre, 1986); Robert Lindsay (Old Vic, 2007); and Kenneth Branagh (Garrick Theatre, 2016).
In August 2019, a new UK tour began at the Curve, Leicester, starring Shane Richie as Archie and directed by Sean O'Connor. In this production. the play was set in 1982, during the Falklands war.The final performance took place at Richmond Theatre in London on 30 November 2019.
A 1960 film version was adapted by Nigel Kneale and John Osborne. It was directed by Tony Richardson and starred Laurence Olivier, Brenda De Banzie, Roger Livesey, Joan Plowright, Alan Bates, Daniel Massey, Thora Hird and Albert Finney. Olivier was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance.
On 10 March 1976, NBC broadcast a two-hour semi-musical version of the play, starring Jack Lemmon as Archie. The setting was changed to a seaside resort in the United States; Marvin Hamlisch wrote the music, Tim Rice (Sir Timothy, since 1994) provided the lyrics.
Michael Gambon starred in a production for the BBC broadcast on 4 December 1993.
In November 2008, BBC Radio 7 broadcast a radio version, adapted by John Foley, featuring Bill Nighy as Archie, Cheryl Campbell as Phoebe, David Bradley as Billy, Sarah Jane Holm as Jean and Bertie Carvel as Frank.
Olivier played Archie to sellout crowds in London and New York, but as critic Janet Feaster observes, when it came to the film, critics were divided, and.”despite a remarkable performance, Olivier ultimately never achieved the stunning success and adoration with the cinematic version that he had enjoyed with the play.“
In The Observer , Kenneth Tynan wrote, "Mr Osborne has had the big and brilliant notion of putting the whole of contemporary England onto one and the same stage ... He chooses, as his national microcosm, a family of run-down vaudevillians. Grandad, stately and retired, represents Edwardian graciousness, for which Mr Osborne has a deeply submerged nostalgia. But the key figure is Dad, a fiftyish song-and-dance man reduced to appearing in twice-nightly nude revue."
In April 1957, The Manchester Guardian was lukewarm, finding the climax of the play "banal" but added, "Sir Laurence brings to the wretched hero a wonderful sniggering pathos now and then and ultimately gives the little figure some tragic size. It is no great play but no bad evening either."
The Times made no connection between the play and the condition of post-Imperial Britain, in its April 1957 review, regarding the play as almost "the sombre, modern equivalent of Pinero's Trelawny of the Wells ."By the time of the 1974 revival, The Times was agreeing with Tynan: "Everyone remembers The Entertainer for its brilliant equation between Britain and a dilapidated old music hall", but added that the play is also "one of the best family plays in our repertory".
In his August 2016 review of the production starring Branagh, Henry Hitchings observed: “As for Osborne’s play, it hasn’t aged all that well, with its flashes of misogyny now pretty hard to stomach. Yet it still has unsettling resonance as a portrait of Britain in decline.”
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, was an English actor and director who, along with his contemporaries Ralph Richardson and John Gielgud, was one of a trinity of male actors who dominated the British stage of the mid-20th century. He also worked in films throughout his career, playing more than fifty cinema roles. Late in his career, he had considerable success in television roles.
Cecil Antonio "Tony" Richardson was an English theatre and film director and producer whose career spanned five decades. In 1964 he won the Academy Award for Best Director for the film Tom Jones.
Sir Ralph David Richardson was an English actor who, with John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, was one of the trinity of male actors who dominated the British stage for much of the 20th century. He worked in films throughout most of his career, and played more than sixty cinema roles. From an artistic but not theatrical background, Richardson had no thought of a stage career until a production of Hamlet in Brighton inspired him to become an actor. He learned his craft in the 1920s with a touring company and later the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. In 1931 he joined the Old Vic, playing mostly Shakespearean roles. He led the company the following season, succeeding Gielgud, who had taught him much about stage technique. After he left the company, a series of leading roles took him to stardom in the West End and on Broadway.
The "angry young men" were a group of mostly working- and middle-class British playwrights and novelists who became prominent in the 1950s. The group's leading figures included John Osborne and Kingsley Amis. The phrase was originally coined by the Royal Court Theatre's press officer in order to promote Osborne's 1956 play Look Back in Anger. It is thought to be derived from the autobiography of Leslie Paul, founder of the Woodcraft Folk, whose Angry Young Man was published in 1951.
John James Osborne was an English playwright, screenwriter and actor, known for his excoriating prose and intense critical stance towards established social and political norms. The success of his 1956 play Look Back in Anger transformed English theatre.
Sir Arthur John Gielgud, OM, CH was an English actor and theatre director whose career spanned eight decades. With Ralph Richardson and Laurence Olivier, he was one of the trinity of actors who dominated the British stage for much of the 20th century. A member of the Terry family theatrical dynasty, he gained his first paid acting work as a junior member of his cousin Phyllis Neilson-Terry's company in 1922. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art he worked in repertory theatre and in the West End before establishing himself at the Old Vic as an exponent of Shakespeare in 1929–31.
Joan Ann Olivier, Baroness Olivier, DBE, commonly known as Dame Joan Plowright, is a retired English actress whose career has spanned over seven decades. She has won two Golden Globe Awards and a Tony Award and has been nominated for an Academy Award, an Emmy and two BAFTA Awards. She was the second of only four actresses to have won two Golden Globes in the same year.
Peter Bowles is an English actor of stage and television.
Kenneth Peacock Tynan was an English theatre critic and writer. Making his initial impact as a critic at The Observer, he praised Osborne's Look Back in Anger (1956), and encouraged the emerging wave of British theatrical talent. In 1963, Tynan was appointed as the new National Theatre Company's literary manager.
Robert Lindsay is an English stage and TV actor. His first major role on TV was playing Wolfie Smith in Citizen Smith. He appeared in sitcoms, most notably as Ben Harper in My Family, playing the role for over a decade, and narrated TV adaptations of the children's television series Brambly Hedge. His film appearances include Fierce Creatures and Wimbledon. He appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company and in musical theatre. He won a BAFTA, a Tony Award, and two Olivier Awards for his work.
"The Boy I Love Is Up in the Gallery" is a music hall song written in 1885 by George Ware for music hall star Nelly Power, and made famous by Marie Lloyd. It was also sung by Jenny Hill.
The Royal Court Theatre, at different times known as the Court Theatre, the New Chelsea Theatre, and the Belgravia Theatre, is a non-commercial West End theatre in Sloane Square, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England. In 1956 it was acquired by and remains the home of the English Stage Company and is notable for its contributions to contemporary theatre.
Brenda Doreen Mignon de Banzie was a British actress of stage and screen.
The Entertainer is a 1960 British drama film directed by Tony Richardson, produced by Harry Saltzman and adapted from the stage play of the same name written by John Osborne. The screenplay was adapted from the stage play by Osborne and Nigel Kneale. The film stars Laurence Olivier as Archie Rice, a failing third-rate music-hall stage performer who tries to keep his career going even as the music-hall tradition fades into history and his personal life falls apart. It was filmed on location in the Lancashire seaside town of Morecambe. Olivier was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
Richard Edward Pasco, was a British stage, screen and TV actor.
George Alexander Cassady Devine was an English theatrical manager, director, teacher, and actor based in London from the early 1930s until his death. He also worked in TV and film.
Alan MacKenzie Howard, CBE was an English actor. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1966 to 1983, and played leading roles at the Royal National Theatre between 1992 and 2000.
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