The Play

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 787

Pravda, a two-act play, begins in an English garden in which Andrew May is painting. As Rebecca Foley enters and discusses her writing, the audience learns that Andrew has retreated to the countryside to escape the pressures of the newsroom and that Rebecca is nursing him back to health. When Andrew announces his intention to speak again to Le Roux and to return to the newspaper, Rebecca counters that she will leave him.

The next scene and the ones that follow precede the first scene and play out the events that led to Andrew’s countryside retreat. In act 1, scene 2, Andrew is a low-level editor receiving an education in how to rewrite copy to make it either sensational or irrelevant. When the owner of the paper, Sir Stamford Foley, sells the paper to Lambert Le Roux so he can buy a racehorse, Andrew and Rebecca are brought together, the former editors are fired, and Andrew is made editor of The Leicester Bystander.

Act 1, scene 3 introduces Le Roux and his business manager, Eaton Sylvester, as they arrange to buy another English newspaper. It happens that the mother of Michael Quince MP owns 21 percent of the shares of The Daily Victory, and Le Roux persuades Quince that a sale would help Quince’s career as a politician: “As a politician? Not even a politician, no longer a politician, with The Daily Victory behind you, a statesman.”

The following scene dramatizes the struggle on the part of Elliot Fruit-Norton to maintain his position as editor in chief of The Daily Victory despite its sale to Le Roux, while Andrew unwittingly seals the paper’s fate when he testifies to the board of trustees that Le Roux never interfered with the running of The Bystander. Thus, Andrew’s naïve idealism enables the unscrupulous Le Roux to buy another paper. In the final scene of the first act, Fruit-Norton accepts the chairmanship of the National Greyhound Racetrack Inspection Board, while Andrew and Rebecca return from their wedding to see Le Roux fire many journalists at The Daily Victory. Clearly, Le Roux will exert a decisive influence on his papers despite Andrew’s testimony. Amid all the firing and pressure to produce more nationalistic news, Andrew becomes the editor of The Daily Victory.

The first scene of the second act opens in the newsroom, where the editors are either promoting government bias or assigning investigative journalists to irrelevant topics. One reporter comments, “Funny, everyone used to be so frightened of investigative journalism.” As Andrew announces that he has just won an award for quality journalism, Rebecca enters with the real news that she has received a confidential report from the Ministry of Defense concerning the danger of a plutonium spill. Andrew chooses to publish the leaked document, but he is fired by Le Roux before he can do so. Rebecca promises to publish elsewhere; Andrew promises revenge.

In the second and third scenes of act 2, Le Roux spells out to Sylvester his aggressive theories of strategy; meanwhile, all the editors and writers who have been fired by Le Roux form a “conspiracy” against him. In the scene between Le Roux and Sylvester, Le Roux announces that trust and loyalty have no place in his sense of values, and the audience is led to wonder whether Sylvester will remain loyal to Le Roux. In the next scene, act 2, scene 3, Sylvester meets with the conspirators and promises to give them scandalous information about Le Roux, stories having to do with bigamous marriages, murder, and extortion. Rebecca is highly suspicious. The conspirators do not know whether to trust Sylvester, but they decide to buy a newspaper with their pooled resources and publish exposés on Le Roux.

In act 2, scene 4, Le Roux (on a hunting expedition) and Andrew (on a walking tour) cross paths and discuss the campaign against Le Roux. Le Roux contends that no one will really care, but Andrew clings to his idealistic hope that the exposé will topple Le Roux. In a surprise development, a constable arrives to serve Andrew with libel papers: Sylvester has fooled the conspirators by selling them groundless scandals about Le Roux, who can now bankrupt the opposition by suing them for libel.

In the final scene, Andrew returns to the newspaper to become editor of Le Roux’s recent purchase, The Tide. The former editor, whom Andrew has just replaced, tells him his first priority: “What was I doing one minute ago? When I was Editor. I’ll show you the big tits competition. That’s your first priority.” The play closes with Le Roux’s dark announcement, “Gentlemen. We have a new foreman. Welcome to the foundry of lies.” At this point, the stage darkens.

Dramatic Devices

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 511

To account for the success of men such as Le Roux, Pravda directs the audience’s attention to his personal appeal through several comic dramatic devices. Like John Milton’s Satan, Le Roux is represented as exuberant and strong. Indeed, he is excessively strong. Pravda describes itself on its title page as a “comedy of excess,” and a hallmark of this type of play is to give voice to generally understood but never stated facts of life.

Chronological inversion foregrounds the question of why anyone would be persuaded to work for a man such as Le Roux. In the first scene in the play, which is chronologically the penultimate scene, Le Roux has not yet been introduced, but Andrew claims he will go back to work for the yet-unnamed “him,” much to Rebecca’s displeasure. Rebecca refers to Le Roux at this point as a “Satan,” and the audience must begin to wonder what attraction would cause Andrew to sacrifice his marriage. The play as a whole follows this scene, in effect answering the question of what draws Andrew to Le Roux, but the scene that follows chronologically is the one in which Andrew returns to Le Roux, apparently converted to Le Roux’s viewpoint.

Le Roux’s great cruelty is revealed when, after buying a newspaper, he signals the change of command by rapidly firing a good portion of the staff according to personal whim. These scenes play comically because Le Roux’s methods are represented with accelerated directness, in contrast to the more subdued firing that occurs in the real world. One journalist who attempts to get out of the “line of fire” by going to the lavatory is told, “Use a public toilet. You’re fired.” Le Roux’s cruelties have the compactness and suddenness of jokes, and this method, aligning the audience with Le Roux as it does, demonstrates through humor how most people wish to identify with authority. Comic presentation in this way points to the source of Le Roux’s power, just as rhetorical sophistication suggests the appeal of Milton’s Satan.

As Le Roux speaks his mind with cynical directness, so do other characters. Addressing the audience directly, Andrew reveals what he enjoys about his job: “I love it. The smell of hot type. . . . All my career. The world passing through a newsroom. Processed, bundled and delivered through your door.” Like most of Le Roux’s confessions, Andrew’s is not very flattering. He likes the centrality of the newsroom but cares little about its relation to the world. He likes “processed” news, which the audience learns to understand as falsified news.

The world of the newspaper office and the world outside are connected by newspaper headlines (shouted by reporters) that emphasize the press’s irrelevance and sensationalism: “HEADLESS MURDER CASE: WHOSE HEAD IS IT? . . . ROYAL HAIRDO: CUT OUT AND KEEP. . . . GAY BISHOP—MP’S PROTEST.” These headlines characterize the consuming public as well as the press and confirm Le Roux’s social views. Their popularity accounts for the success of his “realistic” philosophy.


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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 116

Sources for Further Study

Boon, Richard. Brenton the Playwright. London: Methuen, 1991.

Bull, John. “David Hare: The State of the Nation.” In New British Political Dramatists. London: Macmillan, 1983.

Bull, John. “Howard Brenton: Portable Theatre and the Fringe.” In New British Political Dramatists. London: Macmillan, 1983.

Donesky, Finlay. David Hare: Moral and Historical Perspectives. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Kroll, Jack. Review in Newsweek, January 13, 1986, 64-65.

O’Connor, John. “Howard Brenton.” In British Playwrights, 1956-1995: A Research and Production Sourcebook, edited by William M. Demastes. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996.

Wa, Duncan. Six Contemporary Dramatists. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.

Wilson, Ann, ed. Howard Brenton: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1992.

Zeifman, Hersh, ed. David Hare: A Casebook. New York: Garland, 1994.

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