Epitaph for George Dillon

Previewed 20 September 2006, Opened 27 September 2005, Closed 14 January 2006 at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London

A major revival the John Osborne and Anthony Creighton play Epitaph for George Dillon in London starring Joseph Fiennes and Francesca Annis and directed by Peter Gill.

Epitaph for George Dillon, a domestic and political drama of hope and disillusionment, is set in a lower middle class houselhold on South London. The Elliots live their unhappy suburban life until Kate Elliot brings home a surrograte for her son killed in the war - the charistmatic and bohemian George Dillon. He is an aspiring actor and penniless writer recently freed from the constraints of employment, his fall cushioned by the kindness and generosity of Kate.

The cast for Epitaph for George Dillon in London stars Joseph Fiennes as 'George Dillon', Francesca Annis as 'Ruth' and Anne Reid as 'Mrs Elliot' with Geoffrey Hutchings as 'Percy Elliot', Zoe Tapper as 'Josie Elliot', Dorothy Atkinson 'Norah Elliot', Stephen Greif, Hugh Simon and Alex Dunbar. The production is directed by Peter Gill with designs by John Gunter, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and music by David Shrubsole. This marks Joseph Fiennes' return to the stage for the first time since playing the role of 'Berowne' in Trevor Nunn's production of Loves Labours Lost at The National Theatre.

"As Dillon, the frustrated actor/writer, Joseph Fiennes cleverly moulds the part to fit: not so much an angry young man as a fed-up one, lolling about with a superior air in the Elliot household in suburbia where he lodges but never pays rent... It is Mrs Elliot's sister Ruth (Francesca Annis) who intrigues the lodger. She is a smoky~mysterious sophisticate... Dillon ultimately fails to rise to Ruth's challenge: that he stop sneering at the rest of the world, and the Elliots' cocktail cabinet in particular, and do something with his gift. Instead he sells out to a wide-boy producer in a pork pie hat who makes him rewrite his play for the masses. It earns 600 a week at Llandridnod Wells, making our hero a commercial success with no integrity. Was the spineless Dillon's fate preferable to the eternally angry Jimmy Porter's? Or was Mrs Elliot the only winner to emerge from this extremely pleasing ensemble piece?" The Sunday Telegraph

"You can almost taste the Spam. From the china alsatian on the mantelpiece to the cold roast pork in the fridge, Peter Gill's production of Epitaph for George Dillon is unmistakeably rooted in the chill austerity of post-war England... Aided by John Gunter's claustrophobically domestic set, Gill deftly conveys the smothering suburban life. Reid is wonderful as the doting Mrs Elliot, feathery and fluttering, like a hen with an egg; Annis smoulders as Ruth, the smart sister who settled for less than she was worth. While the Elliots are clearly supposed to be the enemy - the pram in the hall, the barbarians at the gate - it is much harder to sympathise with George than with the family's small dreams and desires. Feverish writing, hot-to-the-touch performances: it has all the symptoms of a great night at the theatre. Ultimately, though, George's viral fury never gets into your system - a sickness of self-regard that it is all too easy to ward off." The Sunday Times

"Epitaph For George Dillon is, in many ways, a selfportrait of the writer, John Osborne, as a young man. It concerns a jobbing actor and aspiring writer living in digs, charming his landlady and seducing her daughter, which is broadly the way Osborne lived until Look Back In Anger made his name and his fortune. George is not as vile as Jimmy Porter, the antihero of Look Back, but he's obviously an early sketch of him: rancid, cynical, self-pitying, dishonest, snobbish and fundamentally amoral, but without the fire or the wit that vitalises Porter. He's also got the charm and the luck to have been taken in by sweet Mrs Elliot, who lost her son in the war and likes to have a young man around to smother. Shame that the only thing that makes George feel good is despising those he considers his intellectual and social inferiors, never mind that he's living on their charity. Had Joseph Fiennes managed to make George funny or to express his self-disgust, he might have engaged my interest if not my sympathy. Still, he's easy on the eye, unlike John Gunter's horribly authentic set, spot-on down to the embroidered folder for the Radio Times and the garish sunset painting with flying ducks. All very proper... Francesca Annis's elegant Ruth comes from a very different mould than her sibling (played to vacuous clucking perfection by Anne Reid). She's just left the Communist Party and her rich writer lover; she's educated and sophisticated and she sees straight through George... As a slice of post-war, lower-middleclass suburban life, Peter Gill's precise production rings frighteningly true, but Osborne's plotting goes everywhere and nowhere, and as something satisfying to get your teeth into, it misses the mark as surely as Brown Windsor soup. For theatrical archaeologists only." The Mail on Sunday

Epitaph for George Dillon was written by John Osborne and Anthony Creighton in 1955, before Osborne's huge personal success with Look Back in Anger, the play was in fact produced later, in 1958. It opened at the Royal Court Theatre on 11 February 1958 in a production staged by The English Stage Company and directed by William Gaskill. The stars were a young Robert Stephens as 'George' and Yvonne Mitchell as 'Ruth' and the cast also included Wendy Craig as 'Josie', the juvenile lead. We do not know much detail about which of the two men contributed what to the text, but certainly Creighton's presence brings a quality to the play which is different from the acerbic tone of Osborne's other work, and the range and depth of the women characters is very different from his next play, Look Back in Anger.

The play was a critical and box office success and soon transferred to the West End's Comedy Theatre. Later the same year it followed Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer to Broadway, opening on 4 November 1958 and produced by the legendary producer David Merrick. Unfortunately, after an equivocal review in the New York Times, David Merrick lost confidence in the show and took it off after only 23 performances. However pressure from influential artists including Marlene Dietrich and Noel Coward saw him re-open the production in January 1959: it received favourable reviews and run for a further 48 performances, garnering three Tony nominations, including Best Play.

Epitaph for George Dillon in London at the Harold Pinter Theatre previewed from 20 September 2006, opened on 27 September 2005 and closed on 14 January 2006.