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Wesker unveils World Service play

19 December 07 10:11 GMT

Sir Arnold Wesker, one of the key figures in modern drama, has written a play to mark the 75th anniversary of BBC World Service on 19 December.

The play, entitled The Rocking Horse, is set in Brighton, England, and centres on two stories: that of an elderly couple, both 75 years old, and two older women and their relationship with a young man.

Wesker, himself 75, has been writing for the theatre for more than 50 years. He told the BBC that writing for radio presented a very different challenge.

"You have to put in the dialogue the kind of thought and emotion that works through words," he said.

"Look how in seconds you can jump from Venice to Siena, from scene to another, and know that an impact is going to be made from the juxtaposition."


Wesker is best known for works such as Chicken Soup With Barley and I'm Talking About Jerusalem.

The version of the play that has been recorded for BBC World Service radio stars veteran British actors Clive Swift and Prunella Scales, together with Sheila Steafel, Amanda Root and Alex Lanipekun.

The rocking horse of the title is the focal point for the three younger characters - two white women and an 18-year-old black boy - who see it in a window and wonder about why it is there.

Meanwhile the older couple, Marvin and Zelder, are grieving for the death of the son in a car crash.

"I keep a file of first lines, and titles, and dialogue, and characters. And one of the notes is something I thought of while driving - 'what if I did crash - this is the last thing I'm looking at before dying.'

"It was a thought, and it became the thought that drove this male character - because he lost his son in a crash."

One of the important themes of the play, which lasts exactly 75 minutes, is what has changed in 75 years - and also what has stayed the same.

"It's one of the questions that's raised in the play," Wesker said.

"Zelda says, 'the internet?' And Marvin says 'yes, but the internet hasn't changed us - human nature shapes the internet.'

"I think that's got to be a truism, that human nature doesn't change. And because it doesn't the stories of the Bible and the plays of Shakespeare still mean something to us, because we are affected by, touched by, the same things people always have been.

"Loss, joy, confronting death, problems of adolescence, parent-children relations - those tensions are ageless."

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