Another chance to hear the playwright Arnold Wesker, on the eve of his 80th birthday last year, looking back at his life and career with Matthew Sweet. In 'Wesker at 80' Matthew Sweet talks to Wesker, the theatre critic Michael Billington, Margaret Drabble, the actress Nicola McAuliffe and to the directors Dominic Cooke and Michael Kustow.
The author of 42 plays has enjoyed a revival of his work over the last two years with productions of 'The Kitchen' and 'Chicken Soup with Barley' but for many years he felt himself to be neglected by the British theatrical establishment. His plays were performed around the world and translated into seventeen languages but were rarely seen in his own country. In 1976 'Shylock', his reworking of 'The Merchant of Venice' closed on Broadway before the opening night when its star, Zero Mostel, died suddenly. And four years earlier, in 1972, Wesker sued the RSC for refusing to stage 'The Journalists', a play they had commissioned and which Wesker had researched at the Sunday Times. For the first time the RSC opened their archives to allow Matthew Sweet to discover what was happening in the company at the time and why the actors refused to perform the play.