News: Arnold Wesker’s Chicken Soup with Barley confirmed as next show at Royal Court Theatre

Arnold Wesker’s landmark play Chicken Soup with Barley returns to the Royal Court Theatre from 3 June after more than 50 years in a new revival directed by Artistic Director Dominic Cooke.

Chicken Soup with Barley, the first in a trilogy that includes Roots and I’m Talking about Jerusalem was first performed at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in 1958 and transferred to the Royal Court in the same year. The full trilogy was performed at the Royal Court in 1960.

The kettle boils in 1936 as the fascists are marching. Tea is brewed in 1946, with disillusion in the air at the end of the war. Twenty years on, in 1956, as rumours spread of Hungarian revolution, the cup is empty.

Sarah Khan, an East End Jewish mother, is a feisty political fighter and a staunch communist. Battling against the State and her shirking husband she desperately tries to keep her family together.

A moving and important state-of-the-nation play capturing the collapse of an ideology alongside the disintegration of a family.

Samantha Spiro plays Sarah Khan. She last appeared at the Royal Court in The Family Plays and most recently appeared in Hello Dolly! at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, for which she won an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. On television, she recently won a 2011Comedy Award in the Best Female Comedy Breakthrough category for her part in the TV sitcom Grandma’s House on BBC 1.  Her other credits include Much Ado About Nothing at Regent’s Park, Twelfth Night at the Donmar Warehouse, and Funny Girl at Chichester Festival Theatre and played Barbara Windsor in Terry Johnson’s TV play Cor, Blimey!

Arnold Wesker’s plays at the Royal Court have included The Wesker Trilogy (Chicken Soup with Barley, Roots and I’m Talking About Jerusalem), The Kitchen, Chips with Everything, Their Very Own and Golden City and The Old Ones.  More recently his plays have included Longitude at Greenwich Theatre, Denial at Bristol Old Vic and Break My Heart at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.  His recent books include Wesker on Theatre, Wesker’s Monologues, Wesker’s Love Plays, Wesker’s Political Plays, Wesker’s Social Plays (all published by Oberon books).

Artistic Director of the Royal Court Dominic Cooke directs. He is currently directing the award-winning production of Clybourne Park, which opened at the Royal Court in September 2010 to critical acclaim and which opened in the West End at Wyndhams Theatre on 28 January.

Other credits at the Royal Court include Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Fever, Seven Jewish Children, Wig Out!, Now or Later, Rhinoceros and two plays in Mark Ravenhill’s epic play cycle Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat. His credits elsewhere include Arabian Nights and Noughts and Crosses, both for the RSC, as adapter and director. He won the Olivier award for Best Director and Best Revival for The Crucible.

The production will be designed by Ultz, whose previous designs at the Royal Court have included Off the Endz, Jerusalem and Wig Out! Lighting is by Charles Balfour, sound by Gareth Fry and composition by Gary Yershon.

Chicken Soup with Barley will be the first production in the year-long sponsorship of the Royal Court by Coutts & Co, which begins in May 2011.

This is the first time that the Coutts & Co has been the Principal Sponsor of the Royal Court, although the relationship has been ongoing since 2004, with the private bank sponsoring the Royal Court’s 50th anniversary year and most recently its first ever family Christmas show Get Santa!

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