Chicken Soup with Barley
Chicken Soup with Barley is a 1956 play by British playwright Arnold Wesker. It is the first of a trilogy and was first performed on stage in 1958 at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, where Wesker's two other plays of that trilogy—Roots and I'm Talking About Jerusalem—also premiered. The play is split into three acts, each with two scenes.
The play is about the Jewish Kahn family living in 1936 in London, and traces the downfall of their ideals in a changing world, parallel to the disintegration of the family, until 1956. The protagonists are the parents, Sarah and Harry, and their children, Ada, and Ronnie. They are Jewish Communists, and Wesker explores how they struggle to maintain their convictions in the face of World War II, Stalinism, or the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Sarah is an adamant Socialist; she is strong, family-minded, honest though bossy; Harry, her husband, is weak, a liar, not at all manly and lacks conviction; Ada is extremely passionate about what she believes in, especially Marxism, and, like the others, is also romantic both personally and politically; and finally Ronnie is a youthful idealist and just as romantic as Ada.
A major revival, starring Samantha Spiro, was staged at the Royal Court in the summer of 2011.
- Synopsis on Arnold Wesker's homepage.
- Arnold Wesker discusses Chicken Soup with Barley on the BBC World Book Club
- A review of Chicken Soup with Barley.
- Chicken Soup with Barley at the Nottingham Playhouse.
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