The Play

(Survey of Dramatic Literature)

Both Dirty Linen and New-Found-Land take place in “an overspill meeting room for House of Commons business in the tower of Big Ben”; the audience can quickly observe that it is scarcely an ideal place for the conducting of governmental business, as the famous bell chimes with comic regularity every quarter hour. A bawdy tone is quickly established when the first character to appear, a voluptuous secretary, slips into a pair of “French knickers”—a garment which she evidently dispenses as souvenirs, as each of the other characters inadvertently displays a similar pair in the course of the play.

The plot revolves around the efforts of a parliamentary subcommittee to draft a statement upholding the decency of the members of the House of Commons and rebuking the tabloids for inquiring too diligently into the sexual lives of the members of Parliament (MPs). The chairman, Withenshaw, has been promised a life peerage by the prime minister if he can produce a report that will calm the rough waters. Another member, McTeazle, helpfully explains, “this is a meeting of a Select Committee of Members of Parliament to report on moral standards in the House. . . .” The secretary assigned to take down the minutes of the subcommittee, the felicitously named Maddie Gotobed, has been hired less for her stenographic skills than for her apparent involvement with nearly every member of the panel. The audience can quickly deduce that the “titian-haired, green-eyed” Maddie is the “Mystery Woman” of tabloid headlines who presumably has provided sexual favors for a pride of MPs. As McTeazle ruefully explains, “. . . we face the possibility that a sexual swathe has passed through Westminster claiming the reputations of, to put no finer point upon it, 119 Members. Someone is going through the ranks like a lawn-mower in...

(The entire section is 755 words.)