★★★★ |Roots by Arnold Wesker, Donmar Warehouse
It’s 1958 and Beatie Bryant has been living in London with Ronnie, a young socialist full of ideas and ideals. As she anxiously awaits his arrival to meet her family for the first time at their Norfolk farm, her head is swimming with new concepts of a bolder, freer world enhanced by politics, art and music, not caring that her views promise to clash with their traditional rural way of life.
Roots is the centrepiece of Arnold Wesker’s classic post-war trilogy of plays and in spite of being over 50 years since its first staging, still carries a strong and pertinent message today in a world where apathy and mediocrity still abound.
The play is naturalistic and heavy on dialogue but the inherent humour of the situation and characters lightens the tone enough to make it a thoroughly enjoyable piece to watch. The characters interact as they perform a background of daily chores such as cooking, cleaning and bathing, all punctuated by their exchanges which are spoken in broad Norfolk accents and dialect.
Beatie is played by the beautiful and very talented Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife) who manages to convey her naivety, exuberance and vulnerability along with her optimism as she hopefully anticipates a new world emerging. Raine is supported by a strong cast, particularly the magnificent Linda Bassett and Ian Gelder who play her taciturn and complacent parents with great dramatic and comic effect. The contentment of a family happy to live in their rural world, never questioning their routine and allotted roles, is subtly built up as the play slowly burns towards a dramatic finale.
Director James Macdonald has created a flawless piece that proves that classic drama can be performed to great effect and made fresh and challenging, provided it is performed and staged well. This is an excellent production that is well worth viewing if you don’t know the play or worth revisiting if it’s a familiar piece to you.
Roots is on until the 30th of November 2013
Book tickets here: Roots