Long Chronology

1980's

1980

Voices On The Wind
A play about energy defeating lethargy, enacting a story within a story within a story employing street games, strange and ethereal moments, a storm at sea, ghostly voices, simple story-telling (against a background of action), flying, quick-change sets, construction on stage, a birth, masks, electronic sounds and original music.
An old man is part of a shipload of people going to a new land. He was born with magical powers to fly, foretell the future, and hear voices on the wind. One voice he falls in love with fades after many years. He has spent his life looking for it. He's found it again and is on his way to meet her. In the process of telling his story to a family on the boat he tells the story of the woman he fell in love with.

1980

Caritas
In the 14th century a young woman, CHRISTINE CARPENTER asked the church to allow her to live the rest of her life in a cell attached to the church in the Sussex village of Shere. Through living the austere life of an anchoress CHRISTINE hoped to become pure enough to receive divine revelation. Three years on she realises that an anchoress's life is not her vocation - the word of God does not come to her. She asks the church to release her from her vows. They cannot. To do so, they argue, would be to make a cuckold of Christ. Victim of religious fervour she is doomed to live out her life imprisoned in her cell where she goes mad. A metaphor for wrong decisions - political, social, private, religious - which we make and which imprison us for life.

1980

Phoenix
Two couples, one Danish one English, share a warm Whitsun holiday in the Cambridgeshire countryside. KARL-OLAF, a historian, is spending a post-graduate year in Cambridge with his wife, JANIKA, a social worker, and their two children. RAPHAEL, professor of history of art, (and one time senior lecturer to KARL-OLAF), together with his wife, MADEAU, are visiting the Danes. Balmy days are spent eating, cycling, lazing in the sun, listening to music, and conversing. KARL-OLAF and JANIKA are having matrimonial problems. RAPHAEL is going through a crisis of political belief, with MADEAU anxiously looking on.

The calm and balmy days contrast with tensions of heart and mind.

1981

Sullied Hand
Three couples gather for dinner in the home of one of them. MALCOLM, the husband host, a desperate writer, has a brainwave for making a fortune.

Demonstrating his 'brainwave' involves each of the guests enacting - to the deep consternation of LYNN, his wife - a compromising private action.

Sad and funny.

 

1981

Breakfast
MARK BELL, an unconventional Jewish businessman, finds himself reading Primo Levi while on a business trip in Munich.

Everyone he meets is kind. The Levi text, full of Nazi brutality, contrasts with modern Germany. The experience is confusing, tense and, finally, profoundly distressing.

 

1982

Four Portraits - of Mothers
RUTH - woman as unmarried mother
NAOMI - woman as mother who never was
MIRIAM - woman as failed mother
DEBORAH - woman as mother earth
In France and elsewhere they have been performed with Yardsale using
STEPHANIE - woman as abandoned mother.

1982

Annie Wobbler
ANNIE, an old tramp-cum-char-lady who 'does' for a poor Jewish family in London's East End, reminisces her sad old life and describes the family she works for - Wesker's parents. Annie Wobbler is the real name of a childhood memory.

When she has finished ANNIE whips off her eccentric, tatty clothes beneath which is a red-head in black underwear who is -

ANNA
, a working-class student who has just achieved her degree in French, and is making up to go on a date with her boyfriend. This date is going to be very different from previous dates - she's now a B.A. first-class honours and has gained a devastating confidence. Made up she looks stunning; but her red hair is a wig, and the dress she's put on is really two dresses. When the scene ends she removes wig, unhitches one of the dresses, and is now -

1983

Cinders
Based on the biography of CYNTHIA PAYNE by Paul Bailey. PAYNE ran 'a house of sex' in Streatham. It was characterised by its absence of seediness. She wanted to provide a happy service. It was a 'fun' house to which people came and relaxed and went off with a girl every so often. CYNTHIA PAYNE was busted but made such a good impression in court that she subsequently became a minor celebrity.

Wesker's adaptation, for reasons completely incomprehensible to him, roused the wrath of Paul Bailey who vetoed the play ever being performed. Nor has it been published.

 

1983

Yardsale

STEPHANIE, a Brooklyn schoolteacher, returns home from school to prepare a meal for SHELDON, her teacher husband, before they go to a lecture. She talks to him imagining he's in the house somewhere, realises he isn't, goes to the bedroom to prepare herself, finds a note from him - he's left her.

Eight short scenes: The homecoming, The discovery, The depression, The phone call, To the art gallery, To the restaurant, To the bookshop, To a Yard sale.

Comical, bitter, angry, defiant.

 

1985

Distinctions

A second collection of 39 essays, lectures, and journalism divided into three sections:
Plays and Players
Reflections
Critics

1986

When God Wanted a Son

JOSHUA, professor of semantics, is Jewish; MARTHA is Gentile. They were married and are now separated. CONNIE is their daughter struggling to be a comedienne. Her humour is sophisticated and sardonic. She's not having much success. She returns home for comfort, hoping to understand and reconcile her confused and confusing background.

Her mother, attempting to dabble in the stock market, is a closet anti-Semite. JOSHUA returns to persuade his estranged wife to forgive and forget and invest money in his wild scheme: a project to build a machine that will detect true character through the inflections of the human voice. MARTHA tries but cannot bring herself to like or respect him. He is too uncomfortable a personality.

The play argues that anti-Semitism, like stupidity, is here to stay.

1986

Whatever happened to Betty Lemon

LADY BETTY LEMON, widow of a Labour peer, 'crippled by everything old age brings', receives a letter informing her she's been voted 'Handicapped Woman of the Year'. It appals her. She spends the next 45 minutes rehearsing the speech she will never give and raging on behalf of those handicapped by fear of their priests, charlatans, charismatic politicians, marriage, ignorant teachers and bigoted parents. At a certain moment her motorised wheelchair takes on a life of its own - yet another of her life's vicissitudes.

The only surrealistic play in the cannon, and one that the author describes as 'a self-portrait of defiance and despair'.

1987

Shoeshine
A student of philosophy achieves his degree but discovers philosophy can't earn him a living. Decides to open a shoeshine box - survival is essential. Family and friends argue that it is demeaning to shine people's shoes. He cannot understand why. The days of servility are past, they tell him. He can't accept their arguments. If there is no other work then he must do what is needed to survive. He considers their moral arguments hollow. In the street where he sets up his shoebox he encounters further hostility - beaten up by young thugs. Undeterred, he returns, to set up his shoeshine box.


1987

The Dusty Wesker Cook Book
Dusty Wesker's fame as a fine and extravagant cook spread from having cooked for family, friends, and visitors world-wide.
Although not a work written by the playwright it has a place in this bibliography - a diary of a year in a playwright's life accompanied by all the recipes of the meals his wife had cooked for that year's visitors. A portion of autobiography with a difference.

1987

Badenheim 1939
An adaptation of the novel by Aharon Appelfeld. It contains so many characters it can only be performed by a National Theatre or University Theatre Department with large resources.

It's a chilling novel. Badenheim is a spa to which middle-class, bohemian Jews have been coming year after year. At its centre is an arts festival. In 1939 strange happenings occur. Sanitary inspectors gradually take over the spa and inform it's Jewish residents that soon they'll be going to Poland.

Barbed wire springs up around the small town, guard dogs proliferate, other Jews appear, herded into the area, and the facilities begin to break down or cease to function. Over the summer the spa falls to pieces.

On the last day all the Jews are marched to the station for transport to Poland. Some are quite looking forward to the journey. They imagine it will be a train that takes them to their destination. When cattle trucks draw up, the festival organiser, ever optimistic, observes:

1987

Little Old Lady
Set in the carriage of a moving London underground train. Two youngsters, an old lady, and others if extras can be afforded. At one of the stations a thuggish young man enters and begins to smoke. Smoking is forbidden. The old lady challenges him to put it out. He refuses. She asks the others to join in with her protest. No one dares. She threatens to pull the cord to stop the train. The thug intimidates her. Everyone waits to see if she'll pull the cord. 


1987

Lady Othello
STANTON, professor of American literature, married with two children, has - in the course of a lecture tour in the States - fallen in love with ROSIE, a black, New York 'mature' student. He's returning to that city to spend time with her and discover the true depth of his feelings. The play charts their riotous, sad, comic, bawdy days together during which he realises their relationship cannot work.

1988

The Mistress

SAMANTHA is a famous dress designer. Her lover is a married man. She is constantly at the mercy of his family demands. Being famous she receives endless appeals for money to worthy causes. These she pushes aside until there are so many she has to make a decision where to donate her money.

On this evening, in her workshop, she is pretending she is there to work when in truth she's waiting for 'that phone call'. Between waiting for the call and deciding on her charities she slowly becomes drunk.

A comically fierce play about private and public guilt.

1988

Beorhtel's Hill
A play commissioned to celebrate the 40th birthday of the new town of Basildon. Because it is a community play engaging 125 members of the community, it is impossible to be performed by anyone else. But it's an interesting read, recording a fascinating history of London's East Enders who were the first Basildon dwellers. Out of their story is explored the theme of 'the stranger in our midst'.