The Chekhovian balance, polish, and deceptive realism of Storey’s plays have made him appear to have been writing against the grain of the aggressive British “New Drama” of the 1960’s. However, there are points of connection: Storey’s increased realism has much in common with the work of Arnold Wesker, and his dialogue is sometimes reminiscent of Harold Pinter’s. Storey had read neither at the time The Contractor was written; he is a remarkably isolated playwright. Indeed, he had rarely visited a theater before his first play was produced.
The fact that Storey is an award-winning novelist, as well as a very successful playwright, is especially intriguing for a consideration of The Contractor. Like other of Storey’s plays and novels, The Contractor has a direct relationship with his novel Radcliffe (1963), in which Ewbank appears as a minor character. There are three major differences, however, between Storey’s plays, which he writes rapidly (as if, he has said, he were on holiday), and his heavyweight novels. One difference is that his three most successful plays elide the event which one might expect to be at the center of the action and the meaning: the wedding in The Contractor; lunch, to which everyone in a lunatic asylum looks forward in Home (pr., pb. 1970); and the rugby match in The Changing Room (pr. 1971, pb. 1972). Life is seen to be a peripheral thing. Another...
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