Last Updated on March 10, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 320
Harry Riley is the janitor in the stadium changing room. Harry owes allegiance to the rugby team’s owner, Frederick Thornton, and has very little interest in the game itself (he never actually watches it). Espousing his staunch belief in the value of hard work, such as his cleaning,...
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Harry Riley is the janitor in the stadium changing room. Harry owes allegiance to the rugby team’s owner, Frederick Thornton, and has very little interest in the game itself (he never actually watches it). Espousing his staunch belief in the value of hard work, such as his cleaning, he asserts that modern players have gone soft. With little education, Harry has idiosyncratic opinions but is sensitive to the players’ moods.
Ken Walsh, a laborer, plays forward on the team. His humor creates a positive attitude and promotes camaraderie among teammates, though some of the more reserved members object to Walsh's antics.
Clifford Owens, the team captain, encourages the team to professionalize. His emphasis on success eventually pays off, and both his teammates and Thornton appreciate his efforts.
Sir Frederick Thornton
Thornton, the club owner, represents the English class system. While his wealth enables him to support the team, their awareness of the vast class differences is inescapable. Thornton continually aims to show his respect for the players despite the difficulty of connecting with the reality of their lives. Passionate about the sport, he understands the need to bring it into the modern age but worries that the changes will destroy its spirit, as evidenced by his dream about robot players.
The team secretary and accountant, MacKendrick is fully convinced of the superiority of modernity. He argues that progress and technology have brought mostly beneficial changes. MacKendrick is an enthusiastic supporter of both the team and the sport.
Kendal is an older player who is injured during a game. Knowing of the dangers of the highly physical sport, the other characters empathize but have varied perspectives on his predicament. Thornton opts to keep Kendal on the team after the injury.
Trevor, a high school teacher, is one of the team’s few white-collar professionals. His presence shows the changing composition of this team and within the sport overall.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 587
Harry Riley, a janitor working in the dressing room (changing room) of a professional rugby team in northern England. Of all twenty-two characters in the play, Harry is the only one who seems to share no joy or comradeship in the work performed by the team. He works, he says, only for the team owner, Sir Frederick Thornton, and in twenty years he has never witnessed a rugby game at the stadium. Nevertheless, Harry is the focal point of the play. He asserts that modern living has softened team players, and he maintains that people living with the innovations of “progress” are diminished because they have distanced themselves from hard physical work, which is necessary for a sustaining, substantive life. Harry is a split character, on one hand often superstitious and ill-informed, but on the other able to accurately diagnose a change in team players. Harry is the first character on stage and the last to exit. His regular sweeping motion as he cleans the floor throughout the play is symbolic of the physical work that Harry believes is important.
Ken Walsh, a team forward who earns a measure of respect from other team players and supporters because of his levity. A laborer by profession, Walsh enjoys the comradeship of playing the game and is a main figure in the interaction between characters that makes up the advancement of the play.
Clifford Owens, the team captain, who has a managerial and motivational function on the team. Owens is well liked by his teammates and by the club owner, but his professional approach to the team effort illustrates how team players are responding more and more to the sport as a job rather than an avocation. Owens’ accomplishments as an athlete are not in question. His success illustrates that the significance of teamwork is changing among the players over time.
Sir Frederick Thornton
Sir Frederick Thornton, the club owner, whose presence reminds the players of the class difference between themselves and the wealthy. Thornton respects his players and enjoys a brief camaraderie with the team. Philosophically, he places himself between the conservative, backward-looking impulse represented by Harry Riley and the satisfied “progressive” response offered by his assistant, MacKendrick. Thornton’s association with the team is more than financial, however, as demonstrated by his distress over a dream in which rugby is played only by robots. Thornton’s decision to keep Kendal, even after his injury, indicates that the team owner cares for the well-being of his players.
MacKendrick, the team secretary and accountant. MacKendrick counters Harry’s argument that progress diminishes humans by pointing out its substantial benefits, including better housing, modern conveniences, and higher employment. He believes that life is better and offers more than ever before. MacKendrick, like Thornton, is attracted to the team’s spirit even though he administers rather than plays with the team.
Kendal (Kenny), an older player whose injury during the game dramatizes the players’ very real physical risks. Kendal’s injury, like the hard-won game, occurs offstage, emphasizing the interaction among team players and supporters rather than the game itself.
Trevor, a high school teacher who plays on the team. Trevor’s presence demonstrates the team’s changing composition over time. Players are no longer simply physical men who enjoy the companionship of playing the game, as they were twenty or fifty years ago; more often, they are white-collar professionals who play to supplement their lives emotionally as well as financially.