Long Chronology

1970's

1970

The Old Ones

The 'old ones' are: SARAH, her two brothers, BOOMY - the pessimist, and MANNY - the optimist; MANNY'S wife, GERDA, and SARAH'S eccentric friends - TERESSA, MILLIE and JACK.

The young are the children of SARAH and BOOMY.

Manic MANNY and gloomy BOOMY constantly quarrel due to an incident in their youth. Their form of quarrel is an eccentric ritual: a 'quotation competition' in which each seeks to confront the other with the ultimate, the irrefutable quotation from the classics to prove that life is either good or bad.

Set against scenes of defiant old age 'The Old Ones' plays out the conflict between the optimistic and pessimistic spirit.

1970

The Friends

A brilliant group of friends from working-class backgrounds have become very successful interior designers, and opened many shops selling their designs. They find their success hollow because their designs were not bought by the working-class people whom they hoped would respond to 'things of beauty'.

Now they are gathered round one of their number, ESTHER, who is dying of leukaemia. Death makes them reassess both who they are and what they imagined they had achieved.

It also forces them to confront their own mortality.

1971

Six Sundays in January

A miscellaneous volume consisting of:

Pools - a short story

The Nottingham Captain - a moral for Narrator, Voices and Orchestra

Menace - an original play for television

Six Sundays in January - a long short story

The London Diary for Stockholm - a diary

1971

Fears of Fragmentation

A collection of seven lectures covering eight years of the life of Centre Fortytwo, the arts organisation of which Arnold Wesker was the director. Each lecture is prefaced by a short paragraph describing the position of Forty-two at the time the lecture was first delivered.

'The story of Centre 42 is a necessary part of the history of the sixties. Arnold Wesker's book is a very personal book, in Wesker's characteristic style, and is not really a substitute for a proper history of the movement which will eventually need to be written"
Raymond Williams: The Guardian 16 July 1970

1972

The Journalists

Setting - A Sunday Newspaper.

Theme - journalism as a metaphor for the Lilliputian mentality that denies, diminishes, and leads finally to self-destruction, or self-loathing at best.

The time - 70s, covering six days in six different weeks. Monday of the first week, Tuesday of the second week, and so on, a structure within which news events are discussed, and personal lives played out.

The story - Mary Mortimer, the central character, a tough journalist with her own column becomes obsessed by a charismatic Labour politician she suspects is a charlatan, and is determined to bring him down. In the process she destroys the life of one of her children.

STOP PRESS: Four startling interviews with Tory cabinet ministers punctuate a play written before Margaret Thatcher was voted leader of the Conservative party!

1974

Say Goodbye You May Never See Them Again
A book of naieve paintings of East London streets by the late John Allin. Allin, a cockney gentile painted the area where he grew up and lived in Hackney, and the 'East End' streets where Wesker grew up. The text, edited by the author, is of the painter and playwright talking about their very different backgrounds.

1974

The Wedding Feast

LOUIS LITVANOV, a shoe manufacturer with idealistic notions about the need to treat your employees as equals, finds himself outside a house from which come the sounds of a wedding. He recognises the voices and realises it's the wedding of one of his employees.
LITVANOV persuades himself that if he joins the wedding guests he will be warmly greeted, and admired for calling in to wish them well. He doesn't plan to stay but is persuaded to, as an honoured guest. Slowly he becomes drunk with them.

The proximity of their employer invites the abuse of his employees. The wedding party ends as a comic, chilling disaster.

1974

Love Letters on Blue Paper

A volume of stories consisting of:

The Man Who Became Afraid

A Time of Dying

Love Letters on Blue Paper

1976

Shylock
Set in the Jewish Ghetto of Venice, 1563, this play reworks not Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' but the three stories from which Shakespeare wove his play. The core plot remains, the relationships are different.

SHYLOCK, a successful loan-banker with a passion for collecting old books, is a friend of the world-weary Venetian merchant, ANTONIO, whose long-forgotten godson, BASSANIO, a fortune hunter, seeks him out to borrow 3000 ducats for the wooing of PORTIA, an educated woman of the Renaissance, and an heiress.

ANTONIO must borrow the ducats from his friend, who unhesitatingly agrees but is offended when ANTONIO asks for a contract. His Venetian friend reminds him: the laws of Venice permit no dealings with Jews without contract. SHYLOCK angrily proposes an absurd contract for a pound of ANTONIO'S flesh to mock the laws of Venice. ANTONIO'S ships are wrecked. The pound of flesh must be forfeited. PORTIA argues that the contract is nonsense. She saves SHYLOCK'S life but not his fortune. ANTONIO loses a friend, PORTIA must marry a man she despises, JESSICA, SHYLOCK'S daughter, realises too late she's linked herself to a religious bigot.

1976

Love Letters On Blue Paper

VICTOR, a retired Yorkshire trade union leader, is dying of leukaemia. He wants to keep this from his wife,SONIA. Instead he calls to his bedside his protégé, the young MAURICE STAPLETON, Professor of Art, in whom he confides, and with whom he attempts to confront 'the big questions'.

SONIA writes letters to him with neither beginnings nor endings, posts them at the bottom of the road, and delivers them to him in the mornings with his other mail. Neither of them talks about the letters. They begin as simple recollections and end as passionate declarations. Through them she reveals a love she was unable to express and, in recalling their glorious life together, prepares him for death.

1977

Journey Into Journalism
In 1971 Arnold Wesker spent some months in the offices of The Sunday Times gathering background material for his play The Journalists. As an off-shoot he wrote an extended essay about his experience among journalists, and offered it to The Sunday Times. The editor, Harry Evans, was going to print it but was overruled by the Managing Editor. When Wesker's publisher, Tom Maschler of Jonathan Cape, suggested it would made a good slim volume Wesker sought and obtained the blessing of Harry Evans. A contract was signed but some journalists objected saying mistakes had been made. Wesker corrected the mistakes but it didn't help. One other journalist claimed the material for the book was obtained under false pretences. The author withdrew the book - a self-imposed restriction. Five years later, in a TV interview about freedom of the press the interviewer, Melvyn Bragg, asked Harry Evans: "What about the Wesker book?" Evans turned to camera and said "You can go ahead and publish, Arnold"

1978

Fatlips
A story for young people aged 9 to 14.

1978

One More Ride On The Merry-Go-Round

JASON, a Cambridge professor of philosophy, separated from his wife, NITA, is enjoying life with his mistress, MONICA, a young American university lecturer. He's contemplating the future. Should he retire and see more of the world, experience more of the life about which he philosophises? In the first act he's full of contempt for his wife whose image he projects as dowdy and uninteresting. In the second act we discover that she's far from this image. NITA is dazzling, energetic, and has a young lover. We realise that JASONand NITA had wished the other to be what each became, but only after they were separated!

A comic plot involving academics who get high on a hash birthday cake, a recalcitrant daughter, and the appearance of an illegitimate son who's a magician.

1978

Said the Old Man to the Young Man

A volume of stories consisting of:

The Man Who Would Never Write Like Balzac

Said the Old Man to the Young Man

The Visit