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Written by R A Williams
The main character, Archie Rice, is about fifty years old. He is a music-hall entertainer by trade although he and his older brother Bill received a very expensive education and is quite erudite although he chose a career based on personal inclination rather than the desire to make money for a family. He sings, dances, and tells jokes for a living but the music-hall or vaudeville business is rapidly going downhill and is also becoming increasingly sensationalistic and tawdry. He is friendly and extroverted, fancying himself a ladies' man, and does not give the impression of belonging to any class in particular.
Archie patronizes nearly everyone else around him, believing himself to be more intelligent due to his superior education. However he is at times no better than a bankrupt con artist. His jocularity conceals an inner insecurity and an emotion he describes as being "dead" but that in reality is barely concealed anger and frustration.
Billy Rice is a retired music-hall entertainer who was extremely popular in his day. Now in his seventies, he is fit, urbane, polished, and contributing to the household from his savings. His clothing is perhaps a quarter of a century out of date but is of extremely good quality and well pressed. He takes a lot of pride in his appearance and in his former skills as a showman, but he is very vocal in his contempt of modern stage show business. In his opinion, the nudity and vulgarity of the surviving burlesque-style entertainment turns away families and other people who might otherwise go regularly to the music-hall instead of to the movies.
Phoebe is a little bit older than Archie, about sixty, and extremely self-absorbed. She does not listen to anyone, she sits still and fidgets when she is forced to listen, and she misses her son Mick terribly. She tends to drink too much and becomes garrulous.
The eldest of Archie's legitimate children, Jean is a well-intentioned young woman perhaps twenty-two years old, who has just broken an engagement. She is returning briefly for a visit, having moved away and pursued a different career. She teaches art to troubled youth and is developing an interest in politics. She is both drawn to, and alienated from, her family. Although she loves Phoebe like a mother, Jean's mother is in fact deceased.
About nineteen years old, Frank gives the impression of being much younger. He refused to enlist in the military and spent time imprisoned for it, but has been released. He is affectionate and impulsive, and tends to feed into his father's ideas and fantasies.
Archie's older brother Bill (called "Brother Bill" to distinguish him from Billy) is a successful lawyer. He is somewhat narrow-minded and has very little patience with Archie's lifestyle and career choice. He is not interested in enabling Archie's charade of a career to continue. However he has a business opportunity for the family in Canada that will rescue them from financial and legal trouble at home.
Graham, formerly engaged to Jean, is a younger and more earnest version of Brother Bill. Very conservative, he is not at all sympathetic toward the rest of Jean's family and considers Jean to be very different from (and superior to) her father, stepmother, and brothers. However Graham's narrow-mindedness frustrates Jean, who still feels an emotional bond of loyalty to her family and to Phoebe in particular.
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