The Monologue of Michael Cohen
A One-Act Play
This script is not among the 30 planned for publication.
It is, however, available, and stage-ready,
for any actor or theatre company interested in producing it.
"This piece was inspired by one of the great modern British playwrights, Arnold Wesker. I had the good fortune to work with him, in 1979, when I was studying Drama at Lancaster University and working with a small theatre company called Pomegranate Theatre. Wesker was invited to the Lancaster Arts Festival, and he in turn invited us to stage a dramatised reading of his play ‘The Merchant’, a retelling from a Jewish perspective of Shakespeare’s tale of Shylock and Antonio. Then, in the summer of 2003, DAVAR, the Jewish Institute in Bristol which I founded, ran its own Literary Festival, and Wesker was one of the many guests. Others chose to read their poems, or excerpts from their novels, or to engage with the audience in questions and answers, but Wesker had a far more interesting idea; he performed his dramatic monologue ‘Betty Lemon’, explaining beforehand that he had written it as a resumé of all the things he cared about, the values and beliefs that he had tried to put into his writings over fifty years. To hear ‘Betty Lemon’ was to hear an account of his intellectual and his imaginative life, and to hear him perform the work himself – rather than some actress - was to step inside his skin for half an hour, and know what it was like to be Arnold Wesker. He was a superb performer with a charismatic presence and a voice as rich as Gielgud’s. I went home wondering if I could create something of the same order for myself; this is the result.