Page 51 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 22

Basic HTML Version

S
penc er
— A
nglo
-J
ew ish
P
layw r ights
4 5
In my view this spade work prepared the theatrical world
nd its audiences for the more serious efforts of Kops and
esker.
Wesker’s first critical success was his East End trilogy,
Chicken
oup with Barley, Roots
and
Talking About Jerusalem.
These
lays are uninhibitedly autobiographical, another non-English
haracteristic. The first describes Ronnie’s childhood at the time
f Fascist activity in the early thirties, and the relationship be­
ween a dynamic mother and a passive father; the second de­
cribes his influence on a simple, non-Jewish country girl, in­
olving a dialectic on attack and passivity in coping with life;
he third is about the attempt by his sister and her husband
o turn from materialism to nature—Kibbutzniks, in fact!
One critic described them as “a rare combination of politics
nd human relations.”
Roots
made the greatest impact—partly
ecause of a splendid performance by Joan Plowright, the
uture Lady Lawrence Olivier. The play has no Jewish charac­
ers, although the most vivid one is the absent Jewish fiance.
ith a simple plot Wesker clearly expressed his humanistic
hilosophy. The perspicacious Mr. Kenneth Tynan noted, “Mr.
esker, if he can survive the autobiographical stage, is potential­
y a very important playwright.”
His subsequent career indicates that far from being an auto­
iographical social-realist, his talent lies in near-Biblical parable;
he Kitchen,
based on his experiences as a chef’s assistant in a
arge hotel, is not only a comment on life in general, but on
he problems of capitalism, national temperament and personal
uilt for collective action.
Chips With Everything
has proved Wesker’s biggest success.
t is clearly a parable on environmental (i.e. working class) in­
ffectiveness and the ruthlessness of a self-perpetuating leader
lass. Even more than in
The Kitchen,
individual characters
ardly exist, except the one Jew—a clever East End ‘snide’ boy.
For the moment Wesker has abandoned play writing for the
ole of Messianic reformer. With persuasive zeal he has obtained
upport from the Trades Unions in the formation of
Centre 42.
o far it must be said, little serious progress has been made
n the efforts to “bring culture to the masses.” I t may not be
nappropriate to point out a curious Puritanism in the Wesker
oncept; in the play
Chips,
the middle class boy who seeks to
dentify himself with the proletariat tries to prove that the
oys have good cultural instincts; he makes them sing traditional
olk songs with now almost vanished class struggle, or revolution­
ry undertones.
Early in 1964 Wesker returned to drama in a short television
lay; a naive mish-mash of the isolation of the young and the