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Madras House


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A: Harley Granville Barker Pf: 1910, London Pb: 1911; rev. 1925 G: Com. in 4 acts S: The Huxtables' and Madras's homes and business offices, London, 1900s C: 8m, 17fHenry Huxtable, recovering from an illness, is preparing to sell the drapery business that he co-owns and manages with his nephew Philip Madras, who wishes to leave the trade so that he can become a reformer. Huxtable is unhappy to learn that Philip's father is returning from abroad to be involved in the negotiations for the sale. Madras Senior is in ill odour with Huxtable, because he left his wife, Huxtable's sister, 30 years previously. We also meet Huxtable's six daughters, who are at a loss how to fill their time meaningfully. The next day at the office, Philip has to adjudicate a crisis amongst his employees: an unrepentant member of staff has become pregnant and a fellow employee is falsely accused of being the father. While mannequins vacuously parade past them, the directors negotiate the sale of the firm. Philip's father Constantine Madras is repulsed by the hypocritical views of the American purchaser, who regards fashion as a means to emancipate women, and proclaims instead the virtues of Islam. In the final act, Constantine and his wife fail to effect a reconciliation, and it is revealed that it was Constantine who made the young employee pregnant. Philip and his wife quarrel and recognize that their life is empty. Philip will attempt to make amends by going into politics, and the play ends with a kiss.

A: Harley Granville Barker Pf: 1910, London Pb: 1911; rev. 1925 G: Com. in 4 acts S: The Huxtables' and Madras's homes and business offices, London, 1900s C: 8m, 17f

While there is a narrative of sorts, the play is really a series of scenes exploring the emptiness and questionable moral codes of contemporary society. The place of women is especially examined: they are either dressed like dolls or exploited like slaves. Barker skilfully blends naturalism with satire, creating a piece which, with its many rewarding female roles, deserves to be performed more frequently.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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