Last Updated on March 10, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 326
David Storey's play The Changing Room is a somewhat formless story that depicts a group of men on a rugby team and their interactions in the locker room prior to and following each of their games. The story has little in terms of definitive plot; instead, it decides to show the characteristics of the men and their responses and adaptations when engaging in physical sport.
Sport as a Stand-In for War
At many points in the play, the preparation for the rugby match is compared to a battle. The men act as if they are going into a war zone, and upon completion, they tend to their wounds and lament their loss or celebrate their victory in much the same way soldiers do. The purpose of this battlefield imagery is to call back to days of war, when men were required to go out and fight. Now, with no outlet for violence and rage, the men turn their attention to games like rugby and football.
While all the men in the story come from different backgrounds and walks of life—some wealthy, some poor, some young, and some old—they are all unified for the game. There is brotherhood in the game, just as there was historically in battle: differences ceased to matter when people fought together for a common purpose.
This final theme stretches over all the others, as Storey uses this play to comment on human nature and the need for an outlet for humanity's more violent tendencies. The men, he tacitly argues, need war, or a display of it, to show their ferocity and dominance, release their aggression, and unify themselves with those around them. He argues that it is in our nature to revert back to more animal and ritualistic instincts, and this game is a way to express those. The changing room serves as the ritual training ground and celebration room for the wars that people can no longer participate in.
Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 562
One of the functions of The Changing Room is to mark, and perhaps to lament, the passing of a way of life. This is expressed in several nostalgic monologues, phrased by stupid or inarticulate characters. In one outburst in act 2, Harry expresses the opinion that the world is degenerating: The players are not the men their fathers were; increased prosperity has not been distributed fairly; it would be as well if the communists invaded and took over. No one shares his political views, but Fielding, a senior player, remarks in act 1 that the extra money he has earned, and which his wife has made him use to buy a house in the country, has left him less happy than he was when he lived in the dirty, cramped, industrial center of town. In act 2, Kendal, dazed and in pain from his broken nose, seems to regret having come up from the coal mines and the amateur game. Several characters regret the passing of old days, finding in them community, friendship, and certainty—if also drunkenness, poverty, and hardship.
Not all agree, though, and this disagreement creates much of the play’s tension. A few players are clearly on their way up. Patsy, some of them remark after he has left, saves all of his money and has a schoolmistress as a girlfriend. Trevor, the team’s fullback, is himself a schoolteacher in daily life. Attending to a cut on Trevor’s ear, Mackendrick remarks that they have to take care of “professional men,” unlike the others, who are “ten a penny.” The rest of the team laugh and jeer, but they have been put on the defensive. In ten years’ time, perhaps, some of them will be well-off and the others poor, too old to play and too unskilled for anything else. The team’s solidarity is strong, but it is also temporary. It is not only clothes that are changed in The Changing Room.
However, upward social mobility may also have its price. Wives and girlfriends are a constant subject of conversation in the play, much of it less than serious. Characters accuse one another freely, and without meaning it, of having affairs with any woman they have ever met. Some of these accusations, though, may be true. Whereas Fielding has been bullied by his wife into living somewhere he does not like, and Trevor and Patsy are quietly rising in status along with their relatively well-educated partners, Kendal is presented as an increasingly tragic figure. He is trying to rise from the coal mines and has married a woman with social and literary pretensions. She is notoriously unfaithful, however, as Luke and Mackendrick remark. Kendal’s purchase of an electric tool set, so he can make bookshelves for her, appears more and more to be a pathetic gesture of love and respect that will gain nothing; he will end the day in the hospital, probably lose his place on the team, and fail in his social aspirations. His fate will be shared, to greater or lesser extent, by at least some of his teammates, such as Fielding or the cheerful but barely literate Walsh. With him will fall, one may imagine, Harry and even perhaps the lonely and well-meaning Sir Frederick. All are attached to a way of life and a local culture that Storey feared could not long survive.