Plays by Arnold Wesker

Chicken Soup with Barley

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

This landmark state-of-the-nation play is a panoramic drama portraying the age-old battle between realism and idealism.

The kettle boils in 1936 as the fascists are marching. Tea is brewed in 1946, with disillusion in the air at the end of the war. In 1956, as rumours spread of Hungarian revolution, the cup is empty. Sarah Khan, an East End Jewish mother, is a feisty political fighter and a staunch communist. Battling against the State and her shirking husband, she desperately tries to keep her family together. Chicken Soup with Barley captures the collapse of an ideology alongside the disintegration of a family.

The play, the first in a trilogy with Roots and I'm Talking about Jerusalem, was first performed at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in 1958.

Roots

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

It’s 1958. Beatie Bryant has been to London and fallen in love with Ronnie, a young socialist. As she anxiously awaits his arrival to meet her family at their Norfolk farm, her head is swimming with new ideas. Ideas of a bolder, freer world which promise to clash with their rural way of life.

Roots is the remarkable centrepiece of Wesker’s seminal post-war trilogy. It was first performed in 1959 at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, before transferring to the Royal Court. It is the second play in a trilogy comprising Chicken Soup with Barley and I’m Talking About Jerusalem. It went on to transfer to the Duke of York’s Theatre in the West End.

A true classic, Roots is an affecting portrait of a young woman finding her voice at a time of unprecedented social change.

Picture of Arnold Wesker

Arnold Wesker (1932-2016) was one of Britain's seminal post-war playwrights. His varied writings include essays, short stories, poetry, journalism and 49 plays, which have been translated into 18 languages. His plays include The Kitchen (1957), Roots (1958), Chips with Everything (1962), Shylock (1976), and Honey (2005).

He held honorary doctorates from the University of East Anglia, Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, and Denison University in Ohio and was knighted in the 2006 New Year's Honours list.