The Contractor/The Changing Room Summary

David Storey


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Companion pieces first produced at the Royal Court Theatre, these two plays are the most striking examples of Storey’s plot technique of omitting the play’s central event from the onstage action in favor of dramatizing the characters’ inner states of being. The omitted events consist of a rugby match in one play and a wedding in the other. In The Changing Room, Storey substitutes locker-room action and conversation for the game; The Contractor substitutes the construction and dismantling of a wedding tent for the wedding ceremony.

The main feature of both plays is the physical activity that creates a bond among the participants and is seldom realized in situations outside of sports or the workplace. What makes the routines in work or play so vibrant and what sets these plays apart is the absence of conflict, except for the communally shared criticism of the outside world. For Storey, teamwork can reach heights that “like art, [can become] something transcending, both to the performer and observer.”

The clock in the brutally rough game of rugby runs constantly, and time-outs occur only for disabling injuries. The Changing Room’s locker-room rituals take place before a game, during a time-out, and at the end. All thirteen men on the team are at one point or another naked and participate in towel-slapping and joking with a flow of energy that is both sensory and rhythmic. Similar rhythms are experienced by the crew constructing a wedding tent for their boss’s daughter’s wedding in The Contractor. Although middle class, the owner of the company and his family have moments in which they join in the spirit of the work. It is into this physical rhythm and flow of energy that the audience is drawn.

Ordinary lives and dialogue, consisting exclusively of nondramatic conversations that reflect the daily lives of most people, inform the plays. Within the plays’ ordinary events the extraordinary is contained. Storey dramatizes life as it is lived. In the fragments of conversational exchanges, characters reveal the dramas of their inner lives. In both plays, Storey creates poetry from the naturalistic dialogue, much of it in local dialect and some of it in bursts of song.


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

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