Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Etienne, Anne;
The Mass and the Individual
From The Kitchen to Four Portraits: Wesker's humanist struggle
University of Thessaloniki, Greece
Oral Presentation
Optional Fields

`The plays are extremely personal. They are an obvious expression of left-wing ideas and dreams and hopes, but he is never for a moment dogmatic, and more in that

Royal Court
tradition of liberal humanism.¿

In his assessment, Stephen Daldry (who directed The Kitchen in 1994) points to the political colour that pervades Wesker¿s work. Nevertheless, John Mc Grath condemned Wesker for being more interested in the concept of mass in terms of people rather than class. The contrasting critics can be reconciled when one considers the cultural and social evolution of the author¿s discourse.

In Wesker¿s theatre, the conflict inherent to dramatic action is clearly dominated by the polarity between the individual and the mass. In his Trilogy he concludes that `you can¿t alter people¿, thereby announcing the failure of sustaining the idealism of collective principles. Yet, a political poet, he continues to explore the tension between the self and the group. Whether with large casts or in monodramas, whether in a realistic or a stylised mode, Wesker is concerned with the legitimacy of individual identity, of the lonely voice attempting to avoid being drowned amid the white noise of the Establishment.

This paper aims to address this defining element of Wesker¿s work through the notion of power as propounded by Foucault in `the Subject and Power¿. Hence, it will question how Wesker represents the individual in relation to the environment that makes him/her a subject, to the power that aims to erase personal identities in favour of a homogeneous, faceless mass. In his first play, The Kitchen (1957), Wesker attacks social domination within the microcosm of a restaurant¿s kitchen by presenting the alienating pressure of work. In 1974, The Wedding Feast portrays the disillusionment of a rich manufacturer who realises the ever-present forms of `exploitation which separate individuals from what they produce¿. Four Portraits ¿ of Mothers (1982) examines forms of subjection to and rebellion against stereotypes of motherhood during Thatcher¿s premiership.