Chicken Soup With Barley


Writers: Arnold Wesker


Show Information

Number of Acts
First Produced
Period, Multiple Settings
Time & Place
London's East End, 1936-1956
Cast Size
Ideal for
College/University, Community Theatre, Regional Theatre, Professional Theatre
Casting Notes
Mostly male cast
Includes adult, young adult characters


Chicken Soup With Barley is the first in a trilogy of kitchen sink dramas by Arnold Wesker, followed by Roots and I'm Talking About Jerusalem. It follows the path of the Kahn family, who live in the heart of London’s jewish, east-end community. The family are staunch communists, but the play explores how they each struggle to maintain their convictions and political energy as the years progress. As the family is torn apart, so is the ideology to which they cling.

In 1936, they are preparing to participate in the blockade of Cable Street against Oswald Mosley's parading Blackshirt fascists. By act two, the family is dealing with the huge losses and disenchantment with worker solidarity following the end of the Second World War. Finally, we see them in 1956 against the backdrop of the Hungarian Revolution. While Sarah, the matriarch of the family, holds her socialist beliefs deep in her heart, her once youthful and passionate son returns from working in Paris like a disillusioned ghost of his former self.

Chicken Soup With Barley is an important piece of 1950s theatre as it does not shy away from the working-class tensions in post-war Britain and is one of the few plays to offer a sympathetic, yet complex portrayal of a communist family.

Lead Characters

Chicken Soup With Barley guide sections