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the entertainer

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duration 2:00
premiere 23 May 2014

The Entertainer is a portrayal of the Rice family, spanning three generations of vaudeville artists who are finding it increasingly difficult to secure their position in the midst of the fast-changing world. Conversations between the grandfather Billy and his granddaughter Jean alternate with performances by his son Archie, whose sarcastic songs hold a mirror up to his audience. When the family comes together and the liquor kicks in, news of the death of Archie’s son Mick – killed in action overseas – leaves all its members feeling utterly adrift.

John Osborne paints a grim picture of England as an empire in decline, where the underprivileged classes are no more than cannon fodder and their patriotism and latent racism combine to create a toxic cocktail. In the Rice family that’s depraved of all illusion, Osborne depicts granddaughter Jean as the only hope for the future: she refuses to be a martyr and rejects nostalgic gabbling and blaming convenient enemies. The Entertainer is a true West End classic. By turns sentimental, provocative and tender, this bold play draws on the rich music hall tradition, dressing despair as comedy and setting cynicism to the tune of bittersweet melody.

Eric de Vroedt about The Entertainer

‘Sons are sent to fight a distant war. Marriages are on the brink of collapse due to cheating and harlotry. Theatres are outrivalled by striptease joints and television. Bailiffs are banging on the doors- the only way to avoid bankruptcy is to evade or to live on credit. The entertainer shows the whole world falling apart. The play sketches a moving image of the struggle of five unimportant people to survive in a rapidly changing world. They are the five members of a twisted family that tries to stay afloat through using copious amounts of humour. They’ll always have their music: They supply their own lives, society, politics and the drowning world with vicious commentary through razorsharp songs and hilarious acts. The entertainer turns the downfall into a stirring and vivacious feast. When disaster draws near and crisis is permanently present, sometimes the only remedies are humour and music. ‘Why should I care? / Why should I let it touch me! / Why shouldn’t I, sit down and try / To let it pass over me?’ ’



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