Chicken Soup With Barley
Although it’s over 50 years old, Arnold Wesker’s social drama – the first of
a trilogy – still resonates today with its judicious intermingling of the
personal and the political.
Chicken Soup With Barley follows the fortunes of the East End Jewish
Kahn family as they react to historic events (from the antifascist protests
in 1936, through the aftermath of the Second World War, to the Soviet
invasion of Hungary in 1956) but is anchored by the indomitable Sarah whose
belief in Communism remains unshaken throughout.
One by one, her disillusioned former comrades and her children desert the
cause, but Sarah remains committed to her ideals, passionately declaring to
her disenchanted son Ronnie (Tom Rosenthal) that “if you don’t care you’ll
It may sound rather serious, but there’s humour as well as sadness in
Dominic Cooke’s excellent production. And Samantha Spiro as Sarah (dishing
out food and endless cups of tea over two decades) and Danny Webb as Harry
(her weak, chronically work-shy husband whose health deteriorates cruelly in
parallel with the loss of faith in Soviet ideology) give terrific
performances which themselves alone more than justify the revival of this
partly autobiographical drama which helped make Wesker’s name.
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, SW1W 8AS
Tube: Sloane Square
Until 9th July
– Louise Kingsley