Sunday, 17 July 2011


I'm sorry for the short capsule reviews, but short on time these days. I had never seen an Arnold Wesker play before, I knew he was a mainstay of the Royal Court in the late 1950s and 60s and that he wrote plays that were realistic and political. I always thought his plays would seem dated now, but this family saga, revived at the Royal Court, was powerful and timely. CHICKEN SOUP WITH BARLEY gives us three decades of a working class Jewish family in London's East End, showing us the idealism of the 1930s when young men wanted to fight in Spain and resist English fascists; the period right after World War II when the Labour Party briefly tried to change England to a more socialist country; and 1956 when the Soviets crushed the Hungarian revolution and the ideals of many leftists. At the center is an indomitable, idealistic wife and mother who believes socialism can bring a loving, harmonious society. Her husband is a wastrel and her children don't live up to her expectations. Her daughter marries and moves to the country to live out a rural ideal. Her son becomes totally disillusioned with politics and may become as inert as his father.
The production offered a textbook example of realistic staging and acting. Everyone was excellent, particularly Samantha Spiro as the mother and Danny Webb as her slacker of a husband.    

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