A Subject of Scandal and Concern

by John Osborne

Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31 May, 5, 6, 7 June 2016

“I have injured no man’s reputation, taken no man’s property, attacked no man’s person, violated no oath, taught no immorality. I was asked a question and answered it openly.”

The London Premiere

In a production commissioned by the Finborough Theatre, the London premiere – and the first production in over 40 years – of John Osborne’s A Subject Of Scandal And Concern.

Cheltenham, 1842. George Jacob Holyoake is a poor young teacher, making his way from Birmingham to Bristol to visit a friend who has been imprisoned for publishing a journal that criticises the establishment. When he makes a stop in Cheltenham to address a lecture, his words and his overwhelming commitment to speaking the truth will change his life forever. Arrested and tried for blasphemy, and separated from his starving wife and child, Holyoake is faced with the choice of conforming or staying true to his beliefs in a time of injustice and intolerance.

Based on the true story of the last man to stand trial for blasphemy in England, A Subject Of Scandal And Concern was originally written for television in 1960 starring Richard Burton and Rachel Roberts, and directed by Tony Richardson, and was first seen onstage in Nottingham in the early 1960s. This production marks the first theatrical staging of the play in over 40 years and its long overdue London premiere.

About The Playwright

Playwright John Osborne was born in Fulham in 1929. His best known works include Look Back in Anger (celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2016),The Entertainer, Luther, Inadmissible Evidence, West of Suez, A Sense of Detachment, Watch It Come Down, A Patriot For Me and The Hotel In Amsterdam, his screenplay for the film Tom Jones which won him an Oscar, and his autobiographies A Better Class of Person and Almost A Gentleman. Osborne died in 1994.

About The Director

Director Jimmy Walters’ previous productions include A Naughty Night With Noëel Coward (Old Red Lion Theatre), Julius Caesar (Saatchi Gallery and Chelsea Theatre), Improbable Fiction (Courtyard Theatre), Hamlet (United Arab Emirates Tour and Network Theatre), I the Jury (Hen and Chickens Theatre), Breaded Butler (Troubadour) and Dear Ray (Edinburgh Festival). Assistant Direction includes Young Shakespeare Company tours of Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet (Bloomsbury Theatre), Othello (Riverside Studios) and Knock Yourself Out (Courtyard Theatre).

The Press on A Subject of Scandal and Concern

★★★★ The Stage
★★★★ Everything Theatre
★★★★ TheatreCat
★★★★ Critical Mass

“It was first performed on television in 1960, directed by Tony Richardson and starring Richard Burton and Rachel Roberts. This is the first time that it has been seen on a London stage.” Stephen Bates, The Reviews Hub

“John Osborne’s play has hardly been seen since. It deserves a theatrical revival, however, both for the fascination of its subject, which is an 1842 blasphemy trial, and for what it reveals about Osborne himself.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“I heard a warning from the past in the tiny Finborough pub theatre in Earls Court. The play, an hour-long piece unseen for more than 40 years, is by John Osborne, whose howl of misogynistic rage in Look Back in Anger made him the angry young man of the moment. In A Subject of Scandal and Concern he used history to vent his outrage. Recreating closely an 1842 blasphemy trial, he delivered a message about free speech that is actually more topical today than it was in 1960. It should burn political ears and blister the varnish on police-station desks.” Libby Purves, The Times

“Simply and beautifully staged.” Stacey Meadwell, Rev Stan’s Theatre Blog

“A gripping hour that provides a great deal of food for thought.” Stephen Bates, The Reviews Hub

“A short but bracing play about freedom of speech and trying to stay true to one’s moral convictions... A fluent sense of tension.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“This play is still as relevant today as it was in 1860.” Tom Evans, A Younger Theatre

“Jimmy Walters’ direction and Philip Lindley’s ingenious design…works brilliantly, evoking a sense of a world whose every aspect conspires against poor Holyoake. And against the freedom of expressed religious opinion which we still have to defend today.” Libby Purves, Theatre Cat

“As ever, the Finborough Theatre punches far above its diminutive weight with another rediscovery by a major playwright.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“It would seem that John Osborne has written a play for today.” Keith McKenna, British Theatre Guide

“Gripping, rarely seen Osborne play is fascinatingly unearthed, with a terrific performance from Jamie Muscato.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“Excellent, intense performances in an intimate venue.” Laura Kressly, The Play’s The Thing UK

“A clear, fluent production with strong, convincing performances.” Keith McKenna, British Theatre Guide

“Strong performances from the entire cast and beautiful stage design.” Elke Wiebalck, Everything Theatre

“The actors, some of whom having to portray four or five different parts, acquit themselves magnificently – particularly Jamie Muscato in the lead role of Mr Holyoake.” Alex Wood, Theatre Bubble

“Jamie Muscato is superb as Holyoake.” Stephen Bates, The Reviews Hub

“Played by Jamie Muscato with a fierce certainty.” Mark Shenton, The Stage

“Jamie Muscato gives a wonderfully sensitive performance.” Caroline Jenner, Sardines Magazine

“Jamie Muscato is a magnetic Holyoake.” Laura Kressly, The Play’s The Thing UK

“Five excellent actors share the other 17 roles, with distinguished work from Doron Davidson and Edmund Digby-Jones.” Johnny Fox, Critical Mass

“Doron Davidson is an excellent Maitland.” Caroline Jenner, Sardines Magazine

“Edmund Digby-Jones as a plethora of deliciously sinister characters.” Tom Evans, A Younger Theatre

“Walters’ imaginative direction makes it theatrical and up-to-date.” Stephen Bates, The Reviews Hub

“Director Jimmy Walters has given Osborne’s legacy the most handsome and elegant staging.” Johnny Fox, Critical Mass

“Jimmy Walters’ production handles the multiple shifts of scene with great ingenuity.” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“Expertly directed by Jimmy Walters.” Caroline Jenner, Sardines Magazine

“Intelligently and fluently directed by Jimmy Walters.” Alice Josephs, Traffic Light Theatregoer

“Piers Sherwood-Roberts' evocative music.” Caroline Jenner, Sardines Magazine

“It is admirable that the Finborough has chosen to bring this play to London for the first time and it is a glowing example of why this is a theatre that should be protected.” Robert Pearce, BargainTheatreland.com

“An exceptionally good play” Maurice Richardson, The Observer

The Press On Playwright John Osborne

“John Osborne liberated theatrical language” Michael Billington, The Guardian

“The man who turned anger into art” BBC

“John Osborne spoke out in a vein of ebullient, free-wheeling rancour that betokened the arrival of something new in the theatre – a sophisticated, articulate lower-class.” Kenneth Tynan, Tynan Right And Left

“Osborne...changed the course of British theatre and earned him a reputation as one of the most forceful voices among a new generation of rebellious post-war dramatists” The New York Times

“John Osborne famously kick-started the theatrical trend for 'Angry Young Men' and drama that put society's discontents at centre-stage.” BFI Screen Online

“A Subject of Scandal and Concern and Luther, emerged out of the author's anti-nuclear activism and his anger regarding the role of Britain's political leaders in the escalation of Cold-War tensions that led to the Berlin Crisis of 1961.” Jonathan Bolton

The Press On Director Jimmy Walters

"Jimmy Walters has kept Coward's concept at the core of his production" ★★★★ The Upcoming

"Both plays...allowed the audience to be transported back to a bygone era.” Musical Theatre Musings

"Jimmy Walters' direction is spot on" ★★★★ LondonTheatre1

Director Jimmy Walters has brought to life two works of Noël Coward. You'll feel as if you've been pulled back to the 1920's." ★★★★ GAY UK

"This evening of two of Noel Coward’s one-act plays cannot be faulted.” The Stage

"The evening is really an homage to the genius of Noël Coward and the passion of the cast and creative team for the writing is unmistakable” LGBTQ Arts and Culture

"Director Jimmy Walters has developed an infectiously funny double bill, which says something honest about love and marriage.” The Culture Trip

"A thoroughly absorbing evening in the theatre with high professional values across the board” British Theatre Guide

“Full marks to Jimmy Walters” Camden Review

Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays 22, 23, 24, 29, 30, 31 May, 5, 6, 7 June 2016

Tickets and Times

Monday 7:30pm
Tuesday 2:00pm
Sunday 7:30pm

Approximately 70 minutes