British playwright Arnold Wesker, who turned 79 on May 24, is enjoying a revival of interest in his writings. “Chicken Soup with Barley,” the first play in his 1950s partly-autobiographical trilogy (the others are “Roots” and “I’m Talking About Jerusalem”) ran from June 2 to July 16 at London’s Royal Court Theatre, where it was first staged in 1958, and on September 7, London’s National Theatre opened a production of Wesker’s most internationally celebrated play, “The Kitchen,” based on his own youthful experiences working in hellish restaurants.
Tracing a left-wing Jewish family’s trajectory from the anti-fascist Cable Street riots of 1936 in the working-class East End, to the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary, “Chicken Soup with Barley” has the punchy, strongly rhythmic dialogue that makes the best of Wesker still theatrically vital. Theatre lovers worldwide are made more Wesker-conscious by a June reprint of “Chicken Soup with Barley” from Methuen drama and two collections out in May from Oberon Books, “Wesker’s Political Plays” and “Wesker On Theatre.”.
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