Socialist Worker

Chicken Soup with Barley

by Jack Farmer
Issue No. 2256

This state of the nation play originally appeared in 1958. Dominic Cooke’s solidly performed revival is by-the-book and naturalistic—but don’t let that put you off.

Arnold Wesker’s play serves up an exciting portrait of life in London’s East End from 1936.

Jewish Communist Sarah Kahn and her family see the Soviet Union as a beacon of hope and a guarantee that capitalism can be overcome.

The Communist Party has deep roots in this working class community. This peaks with the sheer joy at the defeat of Mosley’s fascists at the Battle of Cable Street.

One character happily predicts that this will be a prelude to socialist revolution.

But it doesn’t turn out like that.

Twenty years later, when Russian tanks crush the Hungarian revolution, Sarah is forced to confront her illusions, and the disintegration of her family.

She is a fighter—but the betrayal of Stalinism disarms her.

Chicken Soup with Barley
by Arnold Wesker
Royal Court, London
until 9 July,

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Article information

Tue 14 Jun 2011, 18:17 BST
Issue No. 2256
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