The Work: Plays

The Wesker Trilogy - Roots

1959, (4w 5m - doubling)


Explores the theme of 'self-discovery'. BEATIE BRYANT, daughter of Norfolk farm labourers, has fallen in love with RONNIE KAHN from the 'Chicken Soup' family. She returns from London to visit her family all of whom await the arrival of RONNIE. During the two-week waiting period BEATIE is full of RONNIE'S thoughts and words. To greet him the family gathers for a huge Saturday afternoon tea. He doesn't turn up. Instead comes a letter saying he doesn't think the relationship will work. The family turns on BEATIE. In the process of defending herself she finds, to her delight, that she's using her own voice.


"Do you think we really count? You don' wanna take any notice of what them ole papers say about the workers bein' all-important these days - that's all squit! 'Cos we aren't. Do you think when the really talented people in the country get to work they get to work for us? Hell if they do? Do you think they don't know we 'ont make the effort? The writers don't write thinkin' we can understand, nor the painters don't paint expectin' us to be interested - that they don't, nor don't the composers give out music thinkin' we can appreciate it. 'Blust,' they say, 'the masses is too stupid for us to come down to them. Blust,' they say, 'if they don't make no effort why should we bother?'' So you know who come along? The slop singers and the pop writers and the film makers and the women's magazines and the tabloid papers and the picture-strip love stories - thaas who come along, and you don't hev to make no effort for them, it come easy… The whole stinkin' commercial world insults us and we don't care a damn. Well Ronnie's right - it's our own bloody fault. We want the third-rate - we got it!"


I have now seen this great, shining play three times, and it seems to have grown visibly in stature each time. It is the central pillar of Arnold Wesker's mighty Trilogy … The simple story still grips the audience … Beatie Bryant's betrayal by her Ronnie is still poignant beyond the reach of anything but the very greatest poetry, and her final triumphant budding is still the most heart-lifting single moment I have ever seen upon a stage.
Bernard Levin, Daily Express