Rogues & Vagabonds

theatre, film & tv past and present 2001-2008 & 2013…

Thought for the Day • ARNOLD WESKER • Open Letters • 2004

Whether you end up cheering from the aisles or closing the Pass Door in his face, so to speak, it’s always worth reading Arnold Wesker‘s writings. It is Wesker — his autobiography is appropriately called As Much as I Dare — who voices, published or unpublished, what many want to say about aspects of British theatre but don’t dare, for fear of being ‘blacklisted’ in some way or told that what they’re expressing is simply ‘sour grapes’.

If you have not before read his open letters to such as Caryl Phillips, Trevor Nunn, and David Hare, you’ll find them perfect fare to cut through the ominously sentimental sweetness prevalent at this time of year.

I leave you with a taster that comes from his open letter to Trevor Nunn, who today received a special award at the 50th Evening Standard Theatre Awards. Wesker quotes from a letter of his own to the director from 1999 responding to one of Nunn’s reasons (excuses) for not agreeing to mount a Wesker play while he was in charge of the NT:

‘This may not be the most diplomatic observation to make to the man from whom I’m hoping for a production, but do you have any idea how humiliating and depressing it is to read that a season “is strongly driven by directors expressing their choices of what they want to do next.” There is something not quite right in a public being exposed only to what directors want to direct rather than what (established) writers have written.’

Sarah Vernon © 2004

Originally published on R&V 13-12-04

2 comments on “Thought for the Day • ARNOLD WESKER • Open Letters • 2004

  1. Mary

    Interesting argument here Sarah, oh how about a third leg – what an audience wants to see. How to satisfy all three parties is a tough road to travel.

  2. First Night Design

    It certainly is. The path is littered with serious errors of taste and judgement. I once worked on a production that ran for four days at the Comedy Theatre, which starred Bernard Cribbins (lovely man) and Lionel Blair’s sister Joyce!

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