The Entertainer

Written by John Osborne

Wednesday 13th December to Saturday 16th December 1972

Produced and Directed by Tim Mahoney

"A genuine piece of twentieth-century folk art, a grotesque cry of rage and pain...", " ...a scintillating success..." for Theatre Union.

AuthorJohn Osborne

John Osborne (1929 - 1994)

John Osborne was not only a playwright but was also a screenwriter, actor and critic of The Establishment. The success of his 1956 play Look Back in Anger transformed English theatre. In a productive life of more than 40 years, Osborne explored many themes and genres, writing for stage, film and TV. His personal life was extravagant and iconoclastic. He was notorious for the ornate violence of his language, not only on behalf of the political causes he supported but also against his own family, including his wives and children.

Osborne was one of the first writers to address Britain's purpose in the post-imperial age. He was the first to question the point of the monarchy on a prominent public stage. During his peak (1956-1966), he helped make contempt an acceptable and now even cliched onstage emotion, argued for the cleansing wisdom of bad behaviour and bad taste, and combined unsparing truthfulness with devastating wit.

PlayThe Entertainer

The Entertainer was first produced in London in 1957. The venue, The Royal Court Theatre, was known for its commitment to new and nontraditional drama, and the inclusion of a West End star such as Laurence Olivier in the cast caused much interest. Initial reviews were mixed - "It is no great play but no bad evening either." However, by the time of the 1974 revival more positive acclaim was going its way - "brilliant equation between Britain and a dilapidated old music hall," which is what the author was striving for when he wrote the play.

The Bench Production

The Entertainer poster image

Bench Theatre's original name was 'Theatre Union' and was later changed to reflect the name of the theatre in West Street where most of their early productions were staged. This play was performed under the original Theatre Union name and staged at The Bench Theatre building in West Street. It was the company's sixth major production at that venue which was their home for nearly 7 years.


Billy RiceDavid Spackman
Jean RiceJo Cook
Archie RiceRay Osborne
Phoebe RiceEve Moore
Frank RicePeter Corrigan
William (Brother Bill) RiceDerek Cusdin
Graham DoddClive Wilson


Director Tim Mahoney
Stage Manager Maureen Smith
Pianist Tony Starr
Musical Effects Peter Orford
Costumes Sheila Spackman
Art work David Lings
Choreography Eddie Ambrose

Director's Notes

John Raymond, writing in the New Statesman in 1957, described the play as "...a genuine piece of twentieth-century folk art, a grotesque cry of rage and pain at the bad hand history is dealing out to what was once the largest empire in the world." John Osborne himself said, "The music hall is dying and with it a significant part of England... in writing this play I have not used some of the techniques of the music hall in order to exploit an effective trick, but because they are relevant to the story and setting. The music hall's contact is immediate, vital and direct."

I think it is true to say that the cast have found this a challenging play, we think that we get to the heart of the matter, at times, anyway.

Tim Mahoney


The NewsA.W.G.

Havant actors' brave attempt pays off

The subtleties of John Osborne's period piece of the 'Fifties, 'The Entertainer', could, with unsympathetic handling, so easily fail to come through. Pathetic posturing of the faded music hall comic, Archie Rice and his fate-tossed family, played against a background of the imperial death throes of the Suez debacle have to be skilfully knitted together to carry conviction. It was brave of the Bench Theatre, Havant to tackle the play on their minuscule pad. But once again, excellent teamwork by cast, stage management and lighting rewarded this adventurous little company with a scintillating success that had an enthusiastic first-night reception.

Ray Osborne as the fly-blown Archie, and Eve Moore as his long-suffering wife, squeezed every ounce of fun and pathos from the dialogue, keeping up a brisk pace and holding the audience spell-bound. Jo Cook played the daughter, Jean, with restraint and a wealth of expression which was a tour de force, and Grandfather Billy's endearing dry humour as interpreted by David Spackman made a splendid foil for the rantings of the younger characters. There were some nice touches, too, from Peter Corrigan as the son, Frank. Minor parts were competently played by Derek Cusdin and Clive Wilson, with Tony Starr as pianist.

Regular patrons of this talented company never cease to be surprised at the ingenuity and enthusiasm with which Tim Mahoney and his back-stage team adapt their sets and seating arrangements to cope with the demands of such a varied offering of plays. They are to be congratulated on once again achieving the seemingly impossible in the limited space available. Few amateur companies attain such consistently high standards.

The News, 14th December 1972

Production Photographs