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the entertainer

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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. 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 melodies.

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