A: John Arden Pf: 1958, London Pb: 1961 G: Drama in 17 scenes; prose and songs S: Council estate in northern English industrial town, 1950s C: 6m, 7f, 1 child (f), extrasThe Sawneys, a family of travelling people, are unwillingly being resettled from their derelict tramcar into a home on a council estate. They comprise Sailor, the 70-year-old patriarch; his woman, Big Rachel, a tough woman about 40; Rosie, a 22-year-old single mother of Sally and baby Geordie; and Rachel's son Col, a belligerent teenager. Their neighbour Mrs Jackson comes to welcome them, but is chased away with abuse. Mrs Jackson's daughter Doreen befriends Col, and Mr Jackson is dangerously attracted to Rachel. Blackmouth, Sally and Geordie's father, suddenly arrives to impose himself on the Sawneys, bringing with him the dotty Old Croaker and her manipulative teenage daughter Daffodil. Jackson goes to bed with Rachel, but cannot cope with her passion. Blackmouth finds Col in bed with Daffodil and threatens him with a knife, but is driven from the house by Col. Doreen claims that Col sexually assaulted her. An Official from the Housing Department warns the Sawneys that they will be evicted if they do not look after their house better. Mrs Jackson learns of her husband's infidelity and shuts him out of the house. The women of the estate set upon Col and claw wildly at him. Pursuing him home, they hurl bricks through the windows. After a night of siege, the police arrive and search for stolen goods. Col and Daffodil run away, Sailor is injured, Rachel sets off on the road, and the Official comes to evict them all.
A: John Arden Pf: 1958, London Pb: 1961 G: Drama in 17 scenes; prose and songs S: Council estate in northern English industrial town, 1950s C: 6m, 7f, 1 child (f), extras
In this boisterous play with its parade of colourful characters, vital language, and old ballads, Arden contrasts the Sawneys, ‘direct descendants of the “sturdy beggars” of the 16th century’, with the strait-laced Jacksons, epitome of the English bourgeoisie. While obviously thrilling to the full-blooded anarchy of the Sawneys, Arden insisted that he could not approve of them ‘outright’.