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Redenhall is a small village which lies in the Waveney Valley just north-east of Harleston.

In 1950 Arnold Wesker moved to Norfolk to stay with his sister Della and her husband who lived at Long Stratton. During this time he got a job as a kitchen porter at the Bell Hotel on Timber Hill in Norwich and met his future wife - Dusty Bicker. Dusty's parents lived at Beck Farm in Redenhall and his visits to the farmhouse provided the inspiration for Roots - the second play in his trilogy. (The others being Chicken Soup With Barley and I'm Talking About Jerusalem.)

Arnold Wesker

Arnold Wesker

Here is how the farm is described in the play's stage directions:

'A rather ramshackle house in Norfolk where there is no water laid on, nor electricity, nor gas. Everything rambles and the furniture is cheap and old. If it is untidy it is because there is a child in the house and there are few amenities, so that the mother is too overworked to take much care.'

Beatie Bryant (modelled on Dusty) is the main character in Roots and has recently returned to Norfolk after living in London. She is a spirited and angry young woman and confronts her family's prejudices and parochialism.

The play also attempts to capture the Norfolk accent and at the start Wesker provides an interesting note about pronunciation. This is how it begins:

'This is a play about Norfolk people; it could be a play about any country people and the moral could certainly extend to the metropolis. But as it is about Norfolk people it is important that some attempt is made to find out how they talk. A very definite accent and intonation exists and personal experience suggests that this is not difficult to know.'

was successfully staged in 1959 in Coventry (after being turned down by the Royal Court theatre in London). It helped to establish Wesker as part of the up-coming generation of 'kitchen sink' dramatists who turned the spotlight on the lives of ordinary working people. He also managed to capture the Norfolk dialect in the play - a notoriously difficult thing to do - but it proved difficult for the cast to master.

The play is very much centred around Beatie and her family and grounded in its Norfolk setting.

See also Norwich.


More photographs of Redenhall

Arnold Wesker





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