All in favour of black sweaters, say `aye'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The arrival in London from Bristol of the play Twelve Angry Men must have come as a surprise to all those who knew only the great film starring Henry Fonda and hadn't realised that this courtroom drama also had a life as a play. They will be even more surprised to learn that there is an even more obscure play called Twelve Angry Young Men which has never been revived or filmed.

In an effort to revive interest in this lost masterpiece, I am bringing you an extract today and hope it may whet someone's appetite. Ladies and gentlemen, Twelve Angry Young Men.

The scene is set in a small coffee house in the 1950s. Sitting around, angrily trying to make a cup of espresso last as long as possible, are such young men as Kingsley Amis, John Wain, etc.

John Wain: God, I'm angry!

John Osborne: Have a biscuit, then.

Wain: Not hungry - angry! Aren't you angry?

Osborne: Yes. But mostly with my mother.

John Braine: I'm angry too. God, I'm angry!

Alan Sillitoe: Call yourself angry? You haven't seen angriness till you've seen me!

Wain: The word is "anger", Alan. If you're going to be angry and young and a man, you might as well get your grammar right.

Sillitoe: I don't care about your southern grammar! You can sell out if you like, Wain! You sicken me! You can talk proper and end up in Oxford, if you like! I'm northern and I'm angry!

Braine: Northern? Do you call Nottingham northern? That looks like the bloody Midlands from Bradford, where I come from!

Kingsley Amis: Listen, lads, we'll never get anywhere if we bicker and fight. This is all very angry, but we're only being angry with each other. We're here for a purpose.

Braine: And what is that purpose, O posh one?

Amis: What do you mean, "O posh one"?

Braine: I mean, you've got a poncy Christian name, ie Kingsley, you write poncy rhyming verse, you write poncy middle-class books, you like poncy traditional jazz and you don't smell like an angry young man to me.

Amis: Oh, come on! Lucky Jim was a very angry novel. Picture Post said so.

Braine: Angry, my arse. Jim Dixon was about as angry as a National Serviceman who finds the pubs have just shut.

At this moment the door opens and Kenneth Tynan looks in.

Tynan: Hi there, you angry young things! Anyone finished any plays today that I can take away and plug?

Osborne: Piss off!

Tynan: I like it! Keep the anger up!

He pisses off.

Amis: Listen, everybody, this is getting nowhere. I propose we have a vote. All those in favour of being angry? All those against? Right, that's 11 for being angry ... and me against.

Arnold Wesker: Bloody hell! There's always one, isn't there? Always one smart ass who thinks who knows better. Tell us, Kingsley, why you aren't angry?

Amis: Because one day I want to grow up. I want to have prizes for my novels and have my collected letters published. I want to join the Garrick and write about wine seriously ...

Colin Wilson: You'll be telling us you want a knighthood next.

Amis: Too bleeding right, mate.

Wain: May I just say something?

Amis: Yes, John?

Wain: I want to change my vote to non-angry. Kingsley has a good point.

Amis: That's 10-2.

Shelagh Delaney: I don't believe it! This is crazy! We met to decide how to develop our anger and now we're even going back on that!

Amis: I didn't know there were any women present. Since when have we started letting girls be Angry Young Men?

Delaney: How dare you! Come on, Arnold! I'm not standing up for this a moment longer! Let's go and start the Kitchen Sink Drama movement.

Amis: Take Braine with you. He can write Room at the Tap for you!

Braine: Listen, you nerd ...

A fight breaks out, and Braine and Amis are separated, fairly easily, by Colin Wilson and John Osborne.

Wilson: I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm an angry young man because it's easier to dress that way. A black sweater is all you need.

Wain: And a copy of Existentialism Made Easy For Children in English. I don't believe you've ever read Sartre at all. I don't think you're even angry.

Wilson: You're right. I'm just bored. I want to change my vote to non- angry and get out of here ...

Etc, etc, etc, until Act Two, when Kenneth Tynan comes back and finds everyone has gone.

Comments