The play takes place in one room of a house in West London during the 1950s. It is winter. The play begins with Mick sitting on a bed in the room, but when he hears a door open and shut somewhere offstage, he leaves. Aston, his brother, and Davies, an old tramp, enter. Aston has helped Davies in a fight at the cafe where he was working an odd job. Aston offers Davies clothes, shoes, and a place to stay the night. Davies is loud and opinionated, complaining about the "blacks" and people of other races. Aston, by contrast, is reserved, shy, and speaks haltingly. Davies accepts Aston's offer, and says he will have to go down to Sidcup to get his papers, which will confirm who he is.
The next morning Aston tells Davies that he was being loud in his sleep, a statement that Davies strenuously rejects. Aston prepares to go out, and tells Davies he can stay there. The tramp says he will try to find a job. After Aston is gone, Mick enters and engages Davies in a silent tussle. He asks Davies what his game is.
Mick asks Davies strange questions and discourses on random topics, discombobulating the older man. He finally says that Davies can rent the room if he wants. Aston returns with a bag of Davies's belongings. Mick leaves. The bag turns out not to be Davies', and he is annoyed. Aston asks Davies if he wants to be the caretaker of the place; he, in turn, is supposed to be decorating the landing and turning it into a real flat for his brother. Davies is wary at first because the job might entail real work, but he agrees.
Later Davies is in the room and Mick uses the vacuum cleaner in the dark to frighten Davies. Adopting a more casual manner, he asks Davies if he wants to be caretaker. Davies asks who really is in charge of the place, and Mick deceives him. He asks Davies for references, and Davies promises to go to Sidcup to get them.
The next morning Davies prolongs his decision to go out, blaming bad weather. Aston tells him about how he used to hallucinate and was placed in a mental facility and given electroshock treatment against his will. His thoughts are slower now, and he wishes he could find the man who put the pincers to his head. All he wants to do, though, is build the shed in the garden.
Two weeks later, Davies is full of complaints about Aston, delivering them to Mick. One night Aston wakes Davies to make him stop making noise in his sleep, and Davies explodes, mocking him for his shock treatment. Aston quietly says he is not working out and ought to leave. Davies curses him and says he will talk to Mick about it.
Davies speaks with Mick and argues that Aston should be evicted. Mick pretends to agree with him for a bit, and then starts to ask Davies about his claim that he is an expert interior decorator. Befuddled at this claim he did not make, Davies tries to correct Mick. At one point he calls Aston nutty, which causes Mick to order him to leave. He gives Davies money to pay him out for his services.
Aston enters, and both brothers are faintly smiling. Mick leaves, and Davies tries to plead with Aston again. He grows more and more desperate, wheedling and promising to be better. All Aston says is that Davies makes too much noise. The curtain descends on Davies' protestations.