A Patriot for Me by John Osborne

bookshelves: radio-3, summer-2015, play-dramatisation, spies, published-1965, glbt, suicide, under-20

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from June 06 to 08, 2015


Description: 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of John Osborne’s sensational and ground breaking epic play about Alfred Redl. Redl was an officer in the Austro Hungarian intelligence service in the 1890s. His homosexuality made him a target for blackmail and persecution. Perhaps surprisingly, Osborne’s play is not only a sweeping epic but also an angry plea for tolerance and a condemnation of hypocrisy that is as relevant now as it was to him in 1965.

The play has been credited with helping to bring an end to official censorship in the UK.

A Patriot for Me centres on an ambitious rising star in the Austrian army, in the decadent society of turn-of-the-century Austria, whose journey of self-discovery leads to blackmail, betrayal and murder. Redl is compromised by his newly realised sexual freedom and is compelled by the Russian army to spy on the country and countrymen he cares for.


Produced at the Royal Court with Maximilian Schell as Redl, the great famous set piece is an upper class drag ball, which put the nail in the coffin of the play’s licensing by the Lord Chamberlain, though it was a huge success when performed in a private members’ club, and revived brilliantly many years later at Chichester by Ronald Eyre, starring Alan Bates.

The initial ‘angry young man’, Osborne was important in removing saccharine from the UK stage in the manner of Strindberg and Ibsen. The realism in this play is that it is based on the life of Alfred Redl.

From wiki- Mary McCarthy, the American novelist, wrote in The Observer that the play’s “chief merit is to provide work for a number of homosexual actors, or normal actors who can pass as homosexual”. A Patriot for Me remains rarely performed because of the large cast required.

Alfred Redl (March 14, 1864 – May 25, 1913) – Redl committed suicide by gunshot.

2* The Newsagent’s Window
2* The Entertainer
3.5* Look Back in Anger
2* A Patriot For Me


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