Wesker and Rattigan: a secret friendship revealed

By Jennifer Lipman, May 26, 2011
Sir Arnold Wesker

Sir Arnold Wesker

Two celebrated playwrights who famously did not get along may have had more appreciation for each other' s work than previously known.

Terence Rattigan, whose centenary is currently being marked with several West End revivals, was known to dislike the "angry young men" playwrights who emerged in the 1950s, among them Jewish dramatists Harold Pinter and Arnold Wesker.

But according to The Times, Sir Terence actually believed Wesker - now Sir Arnold Wesker - was as good a playwright as Ibsen, and wrote him two letters of praise.

In one, he said: "you have the makings of a very fine dramatist…Ibsen class". In another, sent a year or so later in 1960, Sir Terence said Wesker's play Roots was "as moving as any contemporary play that I have seen".

Sir Arnold Wesker's second play, Chicken Soup and Barley, is being re-staged next month in London. The 79-year-old, the author of more than 40 plays, said he had been "surprised and flattered" by the letters from Sir Terence.

Last updated: 12:11pm, May 26 2011