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Chips with Everything


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A: Arnold Wesker Pf: 1962, London Pb: 1962 G: Pol. drama in 2 acts S: Royal Air Force base, c.1960 C: 20mPip Thompson is an idealist, who, when conscripted for National Service, insists that he wishes to be treated as one of the men and not trained to be an officer. His socialist views have been conditioned by observing the squalor of London's East End, typified by greasy cafés offering ‘chips with everything’. In the midst of fierce discipline and mindless parade-ground drilling, Pip gradually wins over his fellow conscripts to his revolutionary thinking. When, at a Christmas party, the Wing Commander suggests that the men should sing a pop song, Pip gets his men to sing an old revolutionary folk song. The men still distrust Pip, but he wins them over when he leads a successful raid on some guarded stores. Because Pip refuses to join his class by becoming an officer, his fellow conscripts are made to suffer. Eventually, an officer persuades Pip that his motives are unworthy: ‘Among your own people the competition was too great, but here, among lesser men…you could be king.’ Pip relents, first by accepting an order to bayonet-charge a straw dummy, then by agreeing to become an officer. One of the recruits, who has been brutalized for having a smiley face, tries to escape, but is caught and beaten. When the men threaten to rebel, Pip, donning an officer's uniform, persuades them to fall into line. The play ends with the men drilling immaculately to the national anthem.

A: Arnold Wesker Pf: 1962, London Pb: 1962 G: Pol. drama in 2 acts S: Royal Air Force base, c.1960 C: 20m

This play established Wesker as an international playwright. As in John McGrath's Events while Guarding the Bofors Gun, Wesker here examines the attempt and failure of a middle-class individual to become one of the proletariat, while (somewhat like Beatie in Roots) actually despising their ‘chips with everything’ mentality.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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Arnold Wesker (b. 1932) English dramatist


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