The entire play is an allusion to an event that occurred in Italy, even though the English version takes place in Britain. Many of the characters represent real-life people: the Inspector is Luigi Calabresi, the officer in charge of Pinelli's interrogation; the Superintendent is Marcello Guida, chief of police at the time; and the Journalist is Camilla Cederna, known for her in-depth reporting on controversial subjects.
The play contains various other allusions to people and events. When the Maniac impersonated a psychiatrist and charged a family 200 pounds, his fee, he claimed, made the family think he was as good as Professor Anthony Clare, a psychiatrist on the radio and TV who engaged in a form of self-analysis with celebrities. He refers also to Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis; Mikhail Bakunin, founder of revolutionary anarchism; and Otto Weininger, a German author.
Many allusions to current events have been changed in the translation. In this version, for instance, the Maniac asks the Inspector: "Is it true your boss used to run a mercenary outfit in Bosnia in the 1990s?" (12) In the original, Fo referenced instead an anti-fascist prison camp in southern Italy that had been run by Marcello Guida, chief of police.