catharinal (catharinal) wrote,
catharinal
catharinal

ROOTS (I'M TALKING ABOUT JERUSALEM)

Arnold Wesker, Roots
1958

The second play of Wesker's Chicken Soup Trilogy (aKa the Kahn Trilogy). A simple little thing, but I always enjoy reading it and thinking, who ever knew back in 1959 that this piece would actually turn out to be timeless? I, for one, cannot tell whether the very fact makes me want to laugh or cry.

I don't own a copy of Chicken Soup with Barley, but I do have I'm Talking About Jerusalem, the final play of the trilogy, on my shelf. (Haven't read it yet, but will in due course. From the list of characters & original cast, I see we'll finally meet Ronnie Kahn then!)

Favourite quote? It's got to be

BEATIE: [--] The whole stinkin' commercial world insults us and we don't care a damn.

***

Roots (1958) is the second play by Arnold Wesker in The Wesker Trilogy. [--] Roots focuses on Beatie Bryant as she makes the transition from being an uneducated working-class woman obsessed with Ronnie, her unseen liberal boyfriend, to a woman who can express herself and the struggles of her time. It is written in the Norfolk dialect of the people on which it focuses, and is considered to be one of Wesker's Kitchen Sink Dramas. Roots was first presented at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in May 1959 before transferring to the Royal Court Theatre, London.

Sir Arnold Wesker FRSL (1932–2016) in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Wesker
Roots (1959) in Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roots_(play)
Sir Arnold Wesker obituary in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/apr/13/sir-arnold-wesker-obituary

***

Arnold Wesker, I'm Talking About Jerusalem
1960

I read I'm Talking About Jerusalem right after writing the above entry, and enjoyed it even a great deal more than Roots. It made me bristle (to use Libby Dobson's formulation) and it made me laugh, and it managed to create something very real out of a yiddishe family in Norfolk. "The Kahns are all crazy!" - only not quite. This play is set between 1946 and 1959, and although it mostly comments on the internal political situation in postwar Britain (that is to say, Labour vs. Conservative), it's kind of chilling what one finds when one considers the Jewish politics of the era... Where does the British Jewry fit in? Just after the Holocaust, when the state of Israel was being formed and the war fought... Against this backdrop, some of the lines in the play do hit hard.

And Ronnie Kahn, yes, we do get to know him now. To be honest, I didn't expect him to turn out to be such a likable character, the court jester of the play, surely autobiographical and thus almost naïvely sympathetically portrayed. He's the kind of a character whose presence makes the classical appear ridiculous, all in accordance with the very theme of the trilogy, and does it without the fear of making himself look ridiculous in the process.

So I said the play also made me laugh? Yes, a sort of a bitter, multi-layered laugh, an appreciative laugh; and at times a nonsensical laugh. My favourite quote this time has to be

CISSIE: It's all got to do with the work of another socialist furniture-maker, William Morris.
ESTHER: A yiddisha fellow?
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