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Arnold Wesker Biography

(1932– ), Chicken Soup with Barley, Roots, I'm Talking about Jerusalem, Look Back in Anger

class british plays

British dramatist, born in Stepney, London, educated in Hackney; he worked as a furniture-maker's apprentice, a farm labourer's seed-sorter, a chef, and in many other capacities before writing Chicken Soup with Barley (1958), Roots (1959), and I'm Talking about Jerusalem (1960). These plays, collectively known as the Wesker Trilogy, established him as one of the more important of the socially conscious writers who emerged in the wake of Look Back in Anger. They also embodied conflicts that continued to reappear in his work: between creativity and compromise, idealism and cynicism, dream and reality, human potential and social circumstance. Among his other plays are The Kitchen (1959), on the surface a documentary showing the turbulent world behind the scenes in a restaurant, more essentially a picture of Western industrial society in exemplary microcosm; Chips with Everything (1962), a portrait of national servicemen with much to say about British class divisions; Their Very Own and Golden City (1965), about the limitations forced on and accepted by a visionary architect; The Four Seasons (1965), about the growth and decay of love; The Friends (1970), about a group of designers coming to terms with their working-class origins and re-evaluating their creative aspirations; The Old Ones (1972), about people facing out their impending deaths and their doubts about the value of life; The Wedding Feast (1974), adapted from Dostoevsky, about tensions between a paternalist factory owner and his employees; and Caritas (1981), about the despair of a fourteenth-century anchorite. In addition to As Much as I Dare (1994), his autobiography, Wesker has written numerous articles and essays, the earlier of which he assembled in Fears of Fragmentation (1970), a collection which interestingly reveals the thinking, not merely behind his own drama, but behind his attempts to create Centre 42, a movement which aimed to popularize culture with trade union support.

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