Gray’s play takes place over a period of two years in the 1960s in the staffroom at a Cambridge school for teaching English to foreigners. It deals with the interrelationship between seven teachers at the school, in particular that between St John Quartermaine and the others.
The dominant theme is loneliness, and during the course of the play all of the characters experience the trauma of being or feeling alone. Mark’s wife leaves him; Derek, from Hull, finds Cambridge initially unwelcoming; Eddie is ultimately bereaved by the loss of a partner; Anita’s husband is a philanderer; Henry is trapped in a dysfunctional nuclear family and Melanie is similarly trapped caring for a mother whom she despises. Quartermaine is a painfully lonely bachelor, seemingly with no friends other than his colleagues at the school.
Whilst the play is at times highly comic, it has a very serious theme; and the struggles of each character with their own types of loneliness ar