The Play (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
Pravda, a two-act play, begins in an English garden in which Andrew May is painting. As Rebecca Foley enters and discusses her writing, the audience learns that Andrew has retreated to the countryside to escape the pressures of the newsroom and that Rebecca is nursing him back to health. When Andrew announces his intention to speak again to Le Roux and to return to the newspaper, Rebecca counters that she will leave him.
The next scene and the ones that follow precede the first scene and play out the events that led to Andrew’s countryside retreat. In act 1, scene 2, Andrew is a low-level editor receiving an education in how to rewrite copy to make it either sensational or irrelevant. When the owner of the paper, Sir Stamford Foley, sells the paper to Lambert Le Roux so he can buy a racehorse, Andrew and Rebecca are brought together, the former editors are fired, and Andrew is made editor of The Leicester Bystander.
Act 1, scene 3 introduces Le Roux and his business manager, Eaton Sylvester, as they arrange to buy another English newspaper. It happens that the mother of Michael Quince MP owns 21 percent of the shares of The Daily Victory, and Le Roux persuades Quince that a sale would help Quince’s career as a politician: “As a politician? Not even a politician, no longer a politician, with The Daily Victory behind you, a statesman.”
The following scene dramatizes the struggle on the part of Elliot Fruit-Norton to maintain his position as editor in chief of The Daily Victory despite its sale to Le Roux, while Andrew unwittingly seals the paper’s fate when he testifies to the board of trustees that Le Roux never interfered with the running of The Bystander. Thus, Andrew’s naïve idealism enables the unscrupulous Le Roux to buy another paper. In the final scene of the first act, Fruit-Norton accepts the chairmanship of the...
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Dramatic Devices (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
To account for the success of men such as Le Roux, Pravda directs the audience’s attention to his personal appeal through several comic dramatic devices. Like John Milton’s Satan, Le Roux is represented as exuberant and strong. Indeed, he is excessively strong. Pravda describes itself on its title page as a “comedy of excess,” and a hallmark of this type of play is to give voice to generally understood but never stated facts of life.
Chronological inversion foregrounds the question of why anyone would be persuaded to work for a man such as Le Roux. In the first scene in the play, which is chronologically the penultimate scene, Le Roux has not yet been introduced, but Andrew claims he will go back to work for the yet-unnamed “him,” much to Rebecca’s displeasure. Rebecca refers to Le Roux at this point as a “Satan,” and the audience must begin to wonder what attraction would cause Andrew to sacrifice his marriage. The play as a whole follows this scene, in effect answering the question of what draws Andrew to Le Roux, but the scene that follows chronologically is the one in which Andrew returns to Le Roux, apparently converted to Le Roux’s viewpoint.
Le Roux’s great cruelty is revealed when, after buying a newspaper, he signals the change of command by rapidly firing a good portion of the staff according to personal whim. These scenes play comically because Le Roux’s methods are represented with...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sources for Further Study
Boon, Richard. Brenton the Playwright. London: Methuen, 1991.
Bull, John. “David Hare: The State of the Nation.” In New British Political Dramatists. London: Macmillan, 1983.
Bull, John. “Howard Brenton: Portable Theatre and the Fringe.” In New British Political Dramatists. London: Macmillan, 1983.
Donesky, Finlay. David Hare: Moral and Historical Perspectives. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.
Kroll, Jack. Review in Newsweek, January 13, 1986, 64-65.
O’Connor, John. “Howard Brenton.” In British Playwrights, 1956-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook, edited by William M. Demastes. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.
Wa, Duncan. Six Contemporary Dramatists. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.
Wilson, Ann, ed. Howard Brenton: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1992.
Zeifman, Hersh, ed. David Hare: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1994.