Theatre News

Playwright Arnold Wesker dies aged 83

The legendary writer of ”Roots” and ”Chips With Everything” has passed away

Playwright Arnold Wesker
Playwright Arnold Wesker
© Dan Wooller
Playwright Arnold Wesker, who wrote plays such as Roots and Chicken Soup with Barley has died aged 83.

The prolific writer's career spanned over five decades beginning in the late '50s and includes plays that came to be known as Kitchen Sink drama.

His early plays were staged at the Royal Court, under artistic directors George Devine and William Gaskill.

His 1957 play The Kitchen, which was revived in 2011 at the National Theatre, is set in a busy working restaurant kitchen. Roots was revived at the Donmar Warehouse in 2013 starring Jessica Raine.

Born in the East End of London in 1932, the son of Jewish communists, he said on Desert Island Discs in 2006: "You’re not a good writer because you come from a working class background and you’re not a good writer because you’ve been through university. You’re a good writer because you’re a good writer and it’s the work that matters, not the labels that surround you."

Wesker received a knighthood in 2003.

Major theatre figures have paid tribute to the writer.

Stephen Daldry said: "Arnold Wesker was one of the most committed and impassioned writers of his generation. He was also a fantastic collaborator and one of the sweetest men I have ever worked with. He was an adventurer and delight in the rehearsal room, who challenged and stretched every director he worked with.

"With his passing, and that of Bill Gaskill recently, we are beginning to lose the voices of a generation that shaped theatre as we understand it today. The working class Jewish idiom that Arnold gave expression to was unique, heartfelt and radical."

— Ruth Gibson (@Ruthgibson2000) April 13, 2016

— Tracy Ann Oberman (@TracyAnnO) April 13, 2016

— Jenny Eclair (@jennyeclair) April 12, 2016