Authors: David Hare and Howard Brenton
First published: 1985
Time: The 1980's
Andrew May, a twenty-nine-year-old newspaper writer and editor who, in a short period of time, shoots up to the top of his field and as quickly falls as a protégé of tycoon Lambert Le Roux. When the play opens, Andrew is fresh, in love with newspaper work, and reasonably idealistic, learning the journalist's craft at the provincial Leicester Bystander, at which he is unexpectedly promoted to editor-in-chief by the paper's new owner, the capricious Le Roux. As he moves up in the Le Roux organization, he becomes a willing tool, shutting his eyes to Le Roux's excesses but still trying to hold on to the shreds of his integrity. When his conscience brings him to assert himself hesitantly against the millionaire, he finds his success at an end. The plot centers on the tarnishing of his character and the breaking of his moral fiber under the influence of his employer, so that by the end he goes to Le Roux beaten, begging for a job on a scandal sheet.
Lambert Le Roux, a heavy South African millionaire in his late forties, whose building of a British media empire the play chronicles. He is completely without scruples, wrecking lives by haphazardly firing staff, corrupting politicians, and debasing the public taste. As the owner of hotels, restaurants, and clothing firms, he is a supreme manipulator whose joviality and urbanity hide savagery. He glosses his predatory exercise of power with a warmed-over existentialism, talking of his insignificance in the face of impassive nature. In a sense, he is a rebellious parvenu whose wealth gives him the ability to degrade established British institutions, such as the newspaper Victory, that look down on him. In another sense, he is a business anarchist, because his decisions are often impulsive and willful rather than based on bottom-line calculations. His gigantic fortune papers over his faults and lapses.
Rebecca Foley, the daughter of Sir Stamford Foley, later the wife of Andrew May. She is a recently graduated schoolteacher. She is idealistic enough to have her faith in her father hurt by his shabby treatment of his employees. She is happy about, though wary of, her husband's success and grows sickened as she sees him intoxicated and warped by his progress with Le Roux.
Eaton Sylvester, Le Roux's business manager, a tall, balding Australian with silver glasses. With his vulgarity and disdain for any value aside from monetary success, he seems to be a spokesman for Le Roux's dark side. He relishes his boss's high-handedness and gleefully participates in his under-handed tricks by pretending that he is disgruntled and willing to sell Le Roux's secrets to a rival paper. He realizes that he is always on shaky ground, because Le Roux breaks faith with everyone eventually.
Michael Quince, a member of Parliament in his late thirties who is getting fat and has thinning hair. He is conceited and fatuous, having been given a column in the Victory by Le Roux in exchange for political favors.
Bill Smiley, a cheerful, gangling journalist in his mid-thirties who rises with Andrew but is something of a foil to him, because he is less enamored of success and remains inspired by the standards of honest reporting.
Donna Le Roux, the proud wife of Lambert, a pampered former figure skating champion who dislikes England and yearns for her South African homeland.
Sir Stamford Foley, the owner of the Bystander.Heisadistinguished man in his late sixties, a hunter and gambler who puts forward the pretense of high-mindedness but betrays his employees to get money to buy a racehorse.
Miles Foley, Sir Stamford's son, who is in his twenties and employed in the microchip industry. He looks disdainfully at newspapermen, whom he considers prima donnas.
Harry Morrison, a large man in his late sixties. He is the editorofthe Bystander and a heavy drinker who is disillusioned but accepting of his disillusionment.
Hamish McLennan, a serious, dour, balding man in his early fifties who carries the real responsibility for running the Bystander and is resentful of Morrison for taking the credit.
Suzie Fontaine, a twenty-three-year-old writer of women's stories for the Bystander who rises along with Andrew.
Dennis Payne, a good-looking retired British cricketer, now working as a salesman for Le Roux.
Elliot Fruit-Norton, the editor of the Victory; he is tall, stooping, and polished. He is outraged that Le Roux is taking over his paper.
The bishop of Putney, an old man who is on the board of trustees of the Victory. He is willing to sell to Le Roux as long as he is cajoled and flattered.
Lord Ben Silk, a small, dapper man and trustee of the Victory who is willing to talk turkey with Le Roux.
Leander Scroop, a dandy and a Victory political correspondent. He is concerned with upholding professional standards, which for him means maintaining a cozy relationship with the powers that be.
Doug Fantom, the tough night editor of the Victory.Heisun-aware of how his pruning and rewriting slants the news.
Larry Punt, a young reporter on the Victory with liberal predilections that are rapidly being reshaped.
Hanon Spot, the editor of the Tide, a disgustingly vulgar tabloid owned by Le Roux.