The Changing Room Essay - Critical Essays

David Storey

Critical Context

David Storey is well known as a novelist as well as a playwright. He is often considered one of the “Yorkshire writers,” determinedly alien in culture and general attitude to the London-based world of the arts and publishing. Although it is common for authors to work at part-time jobs until they are established, few, if any, have supported themselves, as Storey did for several years, by playing professional league football for Leeds (one of the four or five major clubs in the United Kingdom). Storey has acted as explicator for the traditional, male, working-class ethic of the coal towns of northern England. The Changing Room—the winner of the 1971 New York Drama Critics Circle Award—continues a theme begun in Storey’s first published novel, This Sporting Life (1960). It also deals with a theme broached in that novel and continued in work after work: the power and menace of the female sex. On the surface, women are dominated and despised by the toughly male characters of Storey’s England, but in reality they act almost as vampires—drainers of their partners’ confidence and vitality. The theme is powerfully expressed in Storey’s much later novel A Prodigal Child (1982), in which the central character, Mrs. Corrigan, is also “a Korrigan,” a witchlike figure of Celtic myth.

As a dramatist, Storey is noted for his combination of comedy and tragedy, of realistic surface and symbolic suggestion. His plays are often set in some bare or neutral location such as a changing room. Home (pr., pb. 1970), for example, must take place in some form of mental institution—though the author claims that he did not know this when he started writing the dialogue—while the action of The Contractor (pr. 1969, pb. 1970) occurs during the construction of a temporary marquee (a large tent for an outdoor event). Like the stage sets, the characters are often in transition, doing things of no particular importance, revealing themselves only by accident. However, they often articulate deep fears and unspoken anxieties. To many, Storey has seemed less a realistic than an obsessive and—for all his physical confidence—a tormented writer. It is often alleged that in Anglo-American culture, “real men” are not allowed to show their feelings. Storey’s characters often confirm this view; the author himself rebuts it.