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TitleLook Back in Anger
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Table of Contents
                            “Look Back in Anger”
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Page 1

Page 2

Act 2 opens on another Sunday afternoon, with Helena and Alison making lunch. In a
two-handed scene, Alison gives a clue as to why she decided to take Jimmy on—her own
minor rebellion against her upbringing plus her admiration of Jimmy's campaigns against
the dereliction of English post-war, post-atom-bomb life. She describes Jimmy to Helena
as a "knight in shining armour". Helena says, firmly, "You've got to fight him".

Jimmy enters, and the tirade continues. If his Act 1 material could be played as a joke,
there's no doubt about the intentional viciousness of his attacks on Helena. When the
women put on hats and declare that they're going to church, Jimmy's sense of betrayal
peaks. When he leaves to take an urgent phone call, Helena announces that she's forced
the issue. She's sent a telegram to Alison's parents asking them to come and "rescue" her.
Alison is stunned but agrees that she will go.

After a scene break, we see Alison's father, Colonel Redfern, who has come to collect her
to take her back to her family home. The playwright allows the Colonel to come across as
quite a sympathetic character, albeit totally out of touch with the modern world (as he
himself admits). "You're hurt because everything's changed", Alison tells him, "and
Jimmy's hurt because everything's stayed the same".

Helena arrives to say goodbye, intending to leave very soon herself. Alison is surprised
that Helena is staying on for another day, but she leaves, giving Cliff a note for Jimmy.
Cliff in turn hands it to Helena and leaves, saying "I hope he rams it up your nostrils".
Almost immediately, Jimmy bursts in. His contempt at finding a "goodbye" note makes
him turn on Helena again, warning her to keep out of his way until she leaves. Helena
tells him that Alison is expecting a baby, and Jimmy admits grudgingly that he's taken
aback. However, his tirade continues. They first come to physical blows, and then as the
Act 2 curtain falls, Jimmy and Helena are kissing passionately and falling on the bed.

The final act opens as a deliberate replay of Act 1, but this time with Helena at the
ironing-board wearing Jimmy's Act 1 red shirt. Months have passed. Jimmy is notably
more pleasant to Helena than he was to Alison in Act 1. She actually laughs at his jokes,
and the three of them (Jimmy, Cliff and Helena) get into a music hall comedy routine that
obviously isn't improvised. Cliff announces that he's decided to strike out on his own. As
Jimmy leaves the room to get ready for a final night out for the three of them, he opens
the door to find Alison, looking like death. Instead of caring for her he snaps over his
shoulder "Friend of yours to see you" and abruptly leaves.

After a scene break, Alison explains to Helena that she lost the baby—one of Jimmy's
cruellest speeches in Act 1 expressed the wish that Alison would conceive a child and
lose it—the two women reconcile but Helena realises that what she's done is immoral and
she in turn decides to leave. She summons Jimmy to hear her decision and he lets her go
with a sarcastic farewell.

The play ends with a sentimental reconciliation between Jimmy and Alison. They revive
an old game they used to play, pretending to be bears and squirrels.

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