‘My preoccupation,’ says Arnold Wesker in his interview/portrait Ambivalences (published by Oberon Books) ‘with-violence-stemming from-perceived-intimidation-by-the-bright-ones who dare to be clever or simply different, began with an incident at school. While queuing for a school meal, one of the other boys wanted me to try his liquorice stick .I didn’t want to. This other pupil insisted. I continued to decline. I didn’t like liquorice! That I didn’t want to share what he liked, what he thought was good, enraged the other boy who couldn’t bear my indifference to his taste, and he hit me. I’ve never lost this image of violence induced by the outsider, the one who dissents, the one who doesn’t share in what others like or believe. One day’, Wesker vowed, ‘I may write a play beginning with that image – of the boy who wants another boy to share his taste in liquorice and hits him because he doesn’t. It’ll be an exploration of the nature of violence.’
In late 2010 he wrote just such a play, Joy and Tyranny, but the playwright doesn’t describe it as a play, rather as: Arias and variations on the theme of violence. In fact it is a patchwork quilt knitting together many extracts from other of his works, as though throughout his career he was infusing those works, ghost-like, with a hidden play waiting the right time to emerge.
Arnold Wesker F.R.S.L was knighted in 2006 for ‘services to drama’. He has written over forty-three plays, two opera libretti, various mechanical adaptations; four volumes of short stories, a children’s book, and a novel; two volumes of essays, an autobiography, a diary, and a book on journalism; and recently his first volume of poetry. His plays have been produced in cities from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo, from Paris to Moscow, from Montreal to Zurich, and The Kitchen – his most performed play has been performed yearly somewhere or other around the world for the last fifty years, and recently was revived by The National Theatre in 2011.