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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Arnold Wesker

My first encounter with the name of Arnold Wesker was sometime in the 60's. I was a teenager, living in a Communist country that was beginning slowly and cautiously to open just a little bit toward the Western world. Naturally I was very eager to understand as much as I could about life beyond the Iron Curtain. About their way of life, about their own challenges, about their universe of ideas. A book published in that period exercised a huge influence on me. Unfortunately I don't remember any more its title, nor the name of its author (who was a Romanian theatrologist). I still have the book: it is somewhere in my home library, well hidden behind other and other books that were added throughout the years.

The book was about the contemporary British and American theater. I read it very carefully trying to absorb every word from it. It happened that at about the same time I found an article about the contemporary British cinema, in Horizons (the only international magazine having in those years also a Romanian edition). And so I learned about the angry young men and about the kitchen sink drama, about John Osborne and his Look Back in Anger, Arnold Wesker and his Chips with Everything, Harold Pinter and his Birthday Party, Shelagh Delaney and his Taste of Honey, Alan Sillitoe and his Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner. From the article in Horizons I learned about the free cinema, about Tony Richardson and Lindsay Anderson. Soon after I had the opportunity to watch at the cinematheque some of their movies, based on the plays of the angry young men: my first meeting with Richard Harris, Rita Tushingham and Tom Courtenay.

And then some of these plays started to be put on stage in Bucharest. In my mind, the generation of British angry men mingles with my own generation of Bucharest directors and actors, Liviu Ciulei and all the others.

Arnold Wesker passed away two days ago. He was 85. And I understand, once more, that their generation was the backbone for my understanding of the modern world, of its ways and its challenges. Then my understanding evolved, I had to learn about many other things and I had to pass through many other experiences. But the moment of beginning was there, in the book where I learned about the theater of anger, about Osborne and Wesker.

(A Life in Books)


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