Wesker ... the unique outsider
in the British Theatre..."
Ronald Bryden, reviewing Their Very Own and Golden City
ARNOLD WESKER, FRSL, Hon. Litt.D. born London 1932, is the author of 42 plays mainly for the stage, four books of short stories, two collections of essays, a book for young people, three more of non-fiction, and an autobiography. His plays include The Kitchen (1957), The Wesker Trilogy (1958/60, comprising Chicken Soup with Barley, Roots, I'm Talking about Jerusalem. Over 400,000 copies sold in Penguin Books), Chips with Everything (1962), The Four Seasons (1965), Love Letters on Blue Paper (1976). Shylock (1976). Annie Wobbler (1982), When God Wanted a Son (1986), Caritas (1988) Circles of Perception (1996), Denial (1997), Groupie (2001), Longitude (2002).
His work, which includes scripts for TV, radio and film is continually performed world-wide, and translated/published in 18 languages. They have won prizes here and abroad. Over the last 40 years Penguin have published seven paperback volumes of his collected plays and one of his stories. These are now gradually being taken over by Methuen Books.
He has directed his plays in Havana, Stockholm, Munich, Aarhus, London, Oslo, Madison & Denison universities (U.S), and Rome.
In 1989 Wesker received his first Honorary Degree (D.Litt.) from the University of East Anglia. His second from Queen Mary and Westfield College, London, was awarded March 1995. A third - Doctor of Humane Letters - was awarded from Denison University, Ohio, May 1997.
1991 saw two world premieres: an opera of his play Caritas for which he wrote the libretto, music by Robert Saxton; it opened The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, moving on to The Cheltenham Festival and The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London; and his fifth play for one woman The Mistress premiered in Rome.
1992 saw two more premieres: 'Men Die Women Survive' (previously entitled 'Three Women Talking') in Chicago, and his sixth 'play for one woman' Letter To A Daughter in Seoul - subsequently performed in Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Sweden (four productions), Denmark, and Italy. Each country engaged its own composer to write music for the five songs. (a brilliant young composer, Ben Till, composed music for a first UK production that opened at The Edinburgh Festival on 8 August 1998.)
To commemorate his 60th birthday in 1992, BBCTV broadcast a new production of Roots. An Oxford/Watford co-production opened in March 1998 to critical acclaim from the national and regional press, and toured the UK.
A musical of The Kitchen, a project put together over thirteen years with £30,000 seed money from Japan had its world premiere in Tokyo in August 2000.
Two other world premieres: Blood Libel (written 1991), commissioned to open the new Norwich Playhouse - about the first accusation of Jewish ritual child murder made in Norwich against its Jewish community in 1144 - opened 1st February 1996. Wild Spring (written 1992) - 15 years in the life of an actress, exploring images of ourselves with which we fall in love - opened in Tokyo, 14 October 1994.
1994, February, saw a spectacular and successful revival of The Kitchen at the Royal Court Theatre directed by Stephen Daldry.
In the same year two new volumes shared the same publication date - 27 October: As Much as I Dare an autobiography commissioned by Century, Random House (paperback, Arrow Books); and volume 7 of his collected plays published by Penguin.
Wesker recently completed a film adaptation of Doris Lessing's novel 'The Diary of Jane Somers', entitled 'Maudie'.
1997 began with the world premiere of When God Wanted a Son at London's New End Theatre, and the completion of his new play Denial about the 'false memory syndrome'.
In the same year The Sherman Theatre in Cardiff together with Harlech (Welsh) TV commissioned a 30-minute play Break, my Heart that opened 3rd June and was subsequently filmed for television. The stage production returned to The Sherman main stage in September as a double-bill with The Mistress (UK premiere) from the cycle of One Woman Plays.
The year continued with The Royal National Theatre's revival in September of his prize-winning play about the defusing of the rebellious spirit Chips With Everything. At the same time Quartet books published his diaries of the rehearsals for Shylock in New York during which Zero Mostel - the Broadway star playing Shylock - died; entitled: The BIRTH of Shylock and the DEATH of Zero Mostel. The American edition was subsequently published in June 1999. The BBC bought a film option on the book a brilliant script of which has been written by Martin Sherman.
1998 saw an Oxford/Watford co-production of Roots open in March to critical acclaim from the national and regional press. It successfully toured the UK.
In October came the publication by Quartet Books of The King's Daughters - a collection of erotic stories begun in 1980 and written over a period of seven years.
On 26 June 1999 Edward Albee in Valdez, Alaska presented the 'Last Frontier Lifetime Achievement Award' to Arnold Wesker 'For Distinguished Service In The Theatre'.
February 2000 Their Very Own and Golden City opened in Osaka - the second Japanese production; also a third production of The Four Seasons in Tokyo.
The year 2000 also saw four world premieres: Denial at The Bristol Old Vic. Which opened to enthusiastic reviews on 16 May; the musical of The Kitchen in Japan July 14; and student productions of Lady Othello and Badenheim 1939 which opened at The Miskin Theatre, University of North Kent, on 13 May.
Following came Barabbas, a 15 minute monologue for BBCTV, one of a series of seven 'Easter Tales' in which minor characters from the Gospels reflect on their lives. Performed by Joss Ackland, directed by Guy Slater.
'Two new plays 'Groupie' (2001) and 'Longitude' (2002) are scheduled for production in London's West End in 2002.
Texas University has just purchased the author's vast archives - 100
Foreign & UK productions
performed/scheduled in the last ten years:
The Trilogy: 'Chicken Soup with Barley', 'Roots', 'I'm Talking About Jerusalem' Paris, May/November 1994, January/March 1996
Chicken Soup With Barley: Buenos Aires (1992), UK (2002)
The Four Seasons: Istanbul, May 1995. Tokyo 1997 & 2000. Athens (2001)
Letter to a Daughter: Sweden (four productions), Spain (national tour), Bruxelles, Lisbon, Norway (TV), Italy (toured), Seoul, Copenhagen, The Edinburgh Festival (1998), Budapest (2000), Aachen Staatstheater (May 2001).
Annie Wobbler: Copenhagen & Aarhus (1994), Ankara and Istanbul (1994/95 and 97/98/99), Budapest, Palermo & Rome (2000) Siena (2001)
Portraits - of mothers: Valencia, Madrid, Rome, Bristol.
Yardsale (with 2 Portraits of Mothers): Johannesburg, Wroclaw. Anchorage (2001).
Break, My Heart (World Premiere) & The Mistress (British Premiere): The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff (June 1997) and HTV later that year. Polverigi Festival, Italy (1998), Rome (1999). Lisbon (2000).
The Mistress: Rome (World Premiere 1991). Mexico (2001)
Love Letters on Blue Paper: Istanbul, Uruguay (1995)
Roots: Norway (opened early 1996), Sweden (1997), UK tour (1998).
Wild Spring: Tokyo (1994), Prague (1998 - 2000).
Whatever Happened to Betty Lemon & Yardsale: Lisbon (1999), Polish & TV (1998 & 2000)
Whatever Happened To Betty Lemon & Break, My Heart (double bill): Stockholm.
Shylock: Yiddish Theatre, Bucharest (September 2000), Turkey (2001), France.
The Old Ones: Italy (Radio, 1997)
Their Very Own and Golden City: Osaka (2000)
The Kitchen - musical: Tokyo and Japanese tour (2000)
Barabbas: a 15 monologue for BBCTV. (Easter 2000)
When God Wanted
A Son: Stockholm (2001)