The play was premiered at London's Royal Court Theatre, on 8 May 1956 by the English Stage Company under the direction of Tony Richardson, setting by Alan Tagg, and music for songs by Tom Eastwood. The press release called the author an "angry young man", a phrase that came to represent a new movement in 1950s British theatre. Legend has it that audiences gasped at the sight of an ironing board on a London stage.
The cast was as follows: Kenneth Haigh (Jimmy), Alan Bates (Cliff), Mary Ure (Alison), Helena Hughes (Helena) and John Welsh (Colonel Redfern).
The following year, the production moved to Broadway under producer David Merrick and director Tony Richardson. Retaining the original cast but starring Vivienne Drummond as Helena, it would receive three Tony Award nominations including for Best Play and "Best Dramatic Actress" for Ure.