Wesker's Social Plays

Front Cover
Oberon Books, May 10, 2012 - Drama - 300 pages

Includes the plays The Kitchen,The Rocking Horse Kid, Voices on the Wind, Denial and When God Wanted a Son

This volume of Oberon Books' Wesker series includes the author’s most performed work The Kitchen (1957) produced in sixty cities from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo, from Paris to Moscow, from Montreal to Zurich.

This volume also contains Wesker’s latest play The Rocking Horse Kid, about a black boy who wants to go round the world on a horse; the magical play for children Voices on the Wind and one of his most controversial plays Denial about ‘the false memory syndrome’, declared by an irate French critic of the Paris production as ‘...a dangerous play. Wesker is a dangerous playwright.’

He has also been described as ‘a melancholy optimist’ as evidenced by another of the plays in this volume When God Wanted a Son which explores the possibility that anti-Semitism like stupidity is in the bloodstream of human nature and here to stay. Few playwrights dare be as politically incorrect as Wesker.


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About the author (2012)

Arnold Wesker grew up in London's Stepney, and after time at the London School of Film Technique and in the Royal Air Force, worked at a number of jobs---carpenter's mate, farm laborer, pastry chef, among others---until Chicken Soup with Barley was performed on an Arts Council grant in 1958. Transferred from a theater in Coventry to the Royal Court, it was joined in repertory there by Roots in 1959 and I'm Talking about Jerusalem in 1960. The realistic trilogy centered on the Kahn family and their connections, in London and Norfolk: old Communists, arts-and-crafts idealists, torpid farm workers, young radicals---nothing less than "the working class today."A different sort of play occupied Wesker just before and after the trilogy---the panoramic description of the ordinary activities of a large group of characters. The Kitchen (1962) followed the rhythms of calm and crisis in a large restaurant; Chips with Everything (1962) dealt with the life of conscripts in an air force training camp. Critic Kenneth Tynan and others welcomed Wesker's microcosms as revelations of the nature of authority and work, and the possibility of collective social action. But Chips, produced in London and New York, was Wesker's last major success. After it, he withdrew temporarily from writing to direct Centre 42, an ambitious worker arts project, the failure of which is memorialized in Their Very Own and Golden City (1966), the chronicle of an idealistic city planner's destructive compromises. Wesker's alienation from the radical politics of the 1970s severed his connection with the British left and threatened his relation with the British theater. (Many of his later plays have had their debut abroad, in Sweden and in the United States.) Since The Four Seasons (1965), about the growing apart of a couple, Wesker's focus has been personal. The Merchant (1976) retells the story of Shylock; Caritas (1981) ends with the martyrdom of a nun; The Old Ones (1972) are brothers confronting the coming of death. The change in Wesker's drama has encouraged readers to return to the early plays and recognize that they are less about collective action than its human difficulties. "I would like to think," the playwright explains, "that my plays . . . have a higher proportion of poetry than journalism.

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