The cast has been announced for Dominic Cooke’s revival of Arnold Wesker’s seminal play Chicken Soup with Barley, which returns to the Royal Court Theatre in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from 2 June (press night 7 June).
Samantha Spiro, as previously announced will play the pivotal role of the matriarch Sarah Kahn and will be joined by Jenna Augen, Steve Furst, Joel Gillman, Ilan Goodman, Harry Peacock, Tom Rosenthal, Danny Webb and Alexis Zegerman.
Chicken Soup with Barley, the first in a trilogy that includes Roots and I’m Talking about Jerusalem was first performed at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry in 1958 and transferred to the Royal Court in the same year. The full trilogy was performed at the Royal Court in 1960.
The kettle boils in 1936 as the fascists are marching. Tea is brewed in 1946, with disillusion in the air at the end of the war. Twenty years on, in 1956, as rumours spread of Hungarian revolution, the cup is empty.
Sarah Kahn, an East End Jewish mother, is a feisty political fighter and a staunch communist. Battling against the State and her shirking husband she desperately tries to keep her family together.
A moving and important state-of-the-nation play capturing the collapse of an ideology alongside the disintegration of a family.
Jenna Augen will make her stage debut after graduating from Rada to play Ada Kahn. Steve Furst will play Hymie Kossof. His credits include Wet Weather Cover at the King’s Head Theatre, on television, he is well-known for his comic roles in Little Britain, CBBC’s Dick and Dom and appeared in the BBC1 adaptation of Wuthering Heights. On film, his credits include St Trinian’s.
Joel Gillman plays Dave Simmonds, making his stage debut after graduating from the Drama Centre. His TV credits include Being Human, Casualty and Garrow’s Law. Ilan Goodman plays Prince Silver. His previous credits include Miss Nightingale at the Lowry, Danton’s Death at the National Theatre and Six Degrees of Separation at the Old Vic.
Harry Peacock plays Monty Blatt. His credits include As You Like It at the Sheffield Crucible, Henry IV Parts I and II, His Dark Materials and Cyrano de Bergerac at the National Theatre. Tom Rosenthal plays Ronnie Kahn. An award winning stand-up comedian, he is currently starring in Friday Night Dinner on Channel 4.
Samantha Spiro plays Sarah Kahn. She last appeared at the Royal Court in The Family Plays and most recently appeared in Hello Dolly! at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, for which she won an Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. On television, she recently won a 2011 Comedy Award in the Best Female Comedy Breakthrough category for her part in the TV sitcom Grandma’s House on BBC 1. Her other credits include Much Ado About Nothing at Regent’s Park, Twelfth Night at the Donmar Warehouse, and Funny Girl at Chichester Festival Theatre and she played Barbara Windsor in Terry Johnson’s TV play Cor, Blimey!
Danny Webb plays Harry Kahn. He previously appeared at the Royal Court in Serious Money , Piano Forte and Trade. His other credits include Blasted at the Lyric Hammersmith, The Philanthropist at the Donmar Warehouse, The Green Man at the Bush Theatre, Richard III at Sheffield Crucible and Art in the West End. On screen, he appeared in the BBC drama Land Girls.
Alexis Zegerman plays Cissie. Her credits include Two Thousand Years at the National Theatre and on screen she played the lead role of Zoe in Mike Leigh’s film Happy Go Lucky for which she won the award for Best Supporting Actress at the British Independent Film Awards. She is also a writer and her first full length play for the stage was Lucky Seven at Hampstead Theatre in 2008.
Arnold Wesker’s plays at the Royal Court have included The Wesker Trilogy (Chicken Soup with Barley, Roots and I’m Talking About Jerusalem), The Kitchen, Chips with Everything, Their Very Own and Golden City and The Old Ones. More recently his plays have included Longitude at Greenwich Theatre, Denial at Bristol Old Vic and Break My Heart at Sherman Theatre, Cardiff. His recent books include Wesker on Theatre, Wesker’s Monologues, Wesker’s Love Plays, Wesker’s Political Plays, Wesker’s Social Plays (all published by Oberon books).
Artistic Director of the Royal Court Dominic Cooke directs. He is currently directing the award-winning production of Clybourne Park, which opened at the Royal Court in September 2010 to critical acclaim and which continues in the West End at the Wyndhams Theatre until 7 May.
Other credits at the Royal Court include Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Fever, Seven Jewish Children, Wig Out!, Now or Later, Rhinoceros and two plays in Mark Ravenhill’s epic play cycle Shoot/Get Treasure/Repeat. His credits elsewhere include Arabian Nights and Noughts and Crosses, both for the RSC, as adapter and director. He won the Olivier award for Best Director and Best Revival for The Crucible.
The production will be designed by Ultz, whose previous designs at the Royal Court have included Off the Endz, Jerusalem and Wig Out! Lighting is by Charles Balfour, sound by Gareth Fry and composition by Gary Yershon.
Chicken Soup with Barley will be the first production in the year-long sponsorship of the Royal Court by Coutts & Co, which begins in May 2011.
This is the first time that the Coutts & Co has been the Principal Sponsor of the Royal Court, although the relationship has been ongoing since 2004, with the private bank sponsoring the Royal Court’s 50th anniversary year and most recently its first ever family Christmas show Get Santa!
Chicken Soup with Barley opens in the Jerwood Theatre Downstairs from 2 June. Tickets are available online at www.royalcourttheatre.com or from the Box Office on 020 7565 5000.
Release issued by: Royal Court