Court Cooks Wesker Chicken, Unveils Pinter PrizeDate: 31 January 2011
The Royal Court will this summer revive Arnold Wesker’s landmark play Chicken Soup with Barley, last seen at the Sloane Square address more than 50 years ago. The new production, which will run the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from 7 June to 9 July 2011 (previews from 3 June), will star Olivier Award winner Samantha Spiro and will be directed by Royal Court artistic director Dominic Cooke.
Also announced today, the theatre is launching a new playwriting bursary in honour of Harold Pinter, who passed away in December 2008. The Harold Pinter Playwright’s Award, gifted to the theatre by Pinter’s widow, the biographer Antonia Fraser, will be an annual grant given to wholly fund a new commission to be presented at the Royal Court. It will be open to all playwrights, be they first-time or already established. The inaugural prize will be announced later this year.
Spanning 20 years in the life of a family in the East End of London, Wesker’s semi-autobiographical state-of-the-nation play Chicken Soup with Barley commences in 1936, as the fascists are marching, sees disillusion setting in at the end of the war in 1946 and stirs up rumours of a Hungarian revolution over an empty cup in 1956. Spiro stars as Jewish matriarch Sarah Khan, a feisty political fighter and a staunch communist whose ideology collapses as her family disintegrates.
Spiro was last on stage in Hello, Dolly! at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, for which she won the 2010 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical and was nominated for a Whatsonstage.com Award. On TV, she recently won the 2011 Comedy Award in the Best Female Comedy Breakthrough category for her part in the TV sitcom Grandma’s House on BBC 1. Her many other stage credits include Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Cleo, Camping, Emmanuel and Dick, Funny Girl and, at the Royal Court, The Family Plays.
Chicken Soup with Barley will be designed by Ultz, with lighting by Charles Balfour, sound by Gareth Fry and music by Gary Yershon. It will the first production in a new year-long sponsorship of the Royal Court by private Coutts & Co, which begins in May 2011.