The prolific British playwright, and Hove resident, Sir Arnold Wesker has died aged 83, according to his family. Wesker was the author of 50 plays, 4 volumes of short stories, 2 volumes of essays, a book on journalism, poetry and many other assorted writings. His plays have been translated into multiple languages and have been performed worldwide.
Born in London in 1932, Wesker was accepted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art but could not attend due to his poor financial condition. His early plays including Roots and The Kitchen were staged by the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre. His plays have dealt with a multitude of themes from self-discovery to political disillusionment. He was an active member of the Committee of 100 and, with other prominent members, was jailed in 1961 for his part in its campaign of mass nonviolent resistance to nuclear weapons. Wesker founded the Roundhouse’s first theatre, Centre 42 and co-founded the Writers & Readers Publishing Cooperative Ltd wih a group of writers including Lisa Appignanesi and Glenn Thompson. He was a patron of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, a charity that enables school children across the UK to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres.
Wesker became the fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1985, honoured with the Last Frontier Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999 and was knitted in the 2006 New Year’s Honours list. Arnold Wesker has been described as ‘part of a generation of dramatists, including John Osborne, Harold Pinter and John Arden, who helped change the face of British theatre.’ And has been called the founder of the “kitchen sink” genre of play. Director Stephen Daldry described Wesker as “one of the most committed and impassioned writers of his generation.
At the time of his 70th birthday, Wesker wrote: “And though, like most writers, I fear dying before I write that one masterpiece for which I’ll be remembered, yet I look at the long row of published work that I keep before me on my desk and I think, not bad, Wesker, not bad.” Not bad indeed.
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