Sir Arnold Wesker, British playwright, dies aged 83


Successful British playwright Sir Arnold Wesker has died at the age of 83 after a long illness, it has been announced by his widow Lady Wesker.

The author of 50 plays which have been translated into 17 different languages and performed around the world, Wesker won the Evening Standard Theatre Award in 1959 for Most Promising Playwright, and went on to be knighted in the 2006 New Year's Honours list.

Born in Stepney, London in 1932, he burst onto the theatrical scene with a trilogy of plays at the Royal Court Theatre that included 'Chicken Soup with Barley' (1959), 'Roots' (1959) and 'I'm Talking About Jerusalem' (1960), staged by the English Stage Company under the management of George Devine and William Gaskill.

Later works such as 'The Kitchen' (1961) and 'Chips with Everything' (1962) established him as a social realist, bringing a new wave of thinking to the British stage. Throughout his work he became a leading figure in the "angry young men" generation of writers with themes of disillusionment running strongly in his plays. He felt that cultural boundaries needed to be broken down to allow people from all backgrounds to enjoy the theatre, and set up Centre 42 at the Roundhouse in London in 1964 which was the venue's first theatre space.

Later plays included 'Their Very Own and Golden City' (1966), 'The Friends' (1970), 'Caritas: A Play in Two Acts' (1981) and 'Denial' which was first staged at the Bristol Old Vic. His experience on Broadway with his play 'Shylock' (1980) is accounted in his book 'The Birth of Shylock and the Death of Zero Mostel' (1997) which follows actor Zero Mostel who died after the first performance.

Politically active, he played a leading role in the Committee of 100's demonstrations against the use of nuclear weapons and was sentenced to a month in prison in 1961.

His first novel 'Honey' was published in 2005 and picked up where his play 'Roots' had finished, continuing the story of Beatie Bryant. He published his first collection of poetry 'All Things Tire of Themselves' in 2008.

He is survived by four children.

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