Jinny & Look Back in Anger - In Rehearsals

"The RETOLD series at Derby Theatre has been a way of responding to classic texts from a female perspective and with contemporary sensibilities. So, with the 60th anniversary production of Look Back in Anger happening on our main stage this Spring, our Artistic Director Sarah Brigham commissioned Derbyshire-raised Jane Wainwright to write a piece responding to Look Back in Anger reimagining Jimmy Porter, the archetypal angry young man in the 1950s, as Jinny Porter, an angry young woman in 2016. 

John Osborne wrote Look Back in Anger whilst living and working in Derby and the flat in which all of the action takes place is right opposite our rehearsal room on Green Lane, so it made sense to set Jinny here in Derby, imagining she had moved into the same flat as Jimmy 60 years later.

The first part of the process was an intensive research and development period with Sarah, Jane and dramaturg Nic Wass meeting local women in Derby from various backgrounds to explore their experiences and concerns and tackle the question of what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. As a result of this, Jane produced a first draft of Jinny, which developed from a two-hander to a one-woman show focused on our protagonist.

Joanna Simpkins was cast as Jinny and Ivan Stott worked as the sound designer/composer. We spent the beginning of the year exploring the text and the complexities and inherent contradictions raised by issues of modern femininity - no mean feat with one actor, three weeks of rehearsals and an optimal running time for the show of under an hour!

The piece developed organically in the rehearsal room and rehearsals were used to mine the material we already had, make it more specific to Joanna and get closer to the crux of the challenges that young women face in the 21st century, which are exacerbated by class, opportunity and our patriarchal society. Jinny, like many 20-somethings, is struggling to pay her rent, keep up with the perceived and real achievements of her peers, as well as follow her dream - in her case, of being a professional musician. As such, an exciting aspect of the rehearsal process was developing the soundscape and songs that are integrated throughout the play. Through discussion, mind-maps and improvisation, we explored the themes and ideas we wanted to convey through song, looking to elevate the moments where Jinny’s emotional state could no longer simply be spoken. 

There are many highlights of the rehearsal period, including hearing the text spoken for the first time, exploring how other characters within the play are brought to life and sharing it with our associate artists and staff at various stages. Although we started with a physical and vocal warm-up most mornings, no two days of rehearsals were the same. We have ended up with a piece that responds to Look Back in Anger and feels really rooted in Derby yet speaks to the socio-political climate and challenges facing people all across the country.

We are currently two weeks into rehearsing Look Back in Anger. Although the drawing of the female characters within the play is at times dated, Jimmy (and John Osborne by extension) is undeniably prophetic in his predictions of the future - for example, we have lived through an ‘American age’ of aspiration and consumerism (and still do?), class is still a massive barrier to success and there is still a lot to be justifiably angry about over the advantages that privilege provides the select few. With the companion piece Jinny playing as a curtain-raiser to Look Back in Anger, a RETOLD piece on the main stage for the first time, audiences are in for an entertaining, riveting and thought-provoking evening at Derby Theatre."

Lekan Lawal
RTYDS Resident Assistant Director

Jinny runs from 7 March to 23 March 2016 and Look Back in Anger from 4 March to 26 March 2016. For details on how to book tickets for either show and the dates when you can see both together click below. Book for Look Back in Anger and get your Jinny ticket for just £6 - use code JINNY at the checkout.


Look Back in Anger