St John Quartermaine has a post as a teacher in a language school in Cambridge. The school teaches English to students who come from almost every point of the compass. Though the school claims to have impeccable credentials and, thus, great linguistic success, it is actually a pretty third-rate institution. It is run by joint principals Eddie and Thomas who seem to share much more than just the job. We never see Thomas who seems to be the business force in the academy, but we do meet Eddie who stirs the teaching troops to do battle in the classroom each day.
The entire play is set in the school’s staff room in the early 1960s. Here we meet an odd assortment of teachers who all seem to have considerable problems. For example, Melanie is nursing her mother who has just had a stroke. Derek is a new arrival and is having some difficulty fitting-in and securing a full-time position. He is also extremely accident prone. Henry has a daughter who has taken her public exams early and, when she fails to get good grades, falls into a malaise. Anita has a philandering husband, and Mark’s wife leaves him because she cannot cope with being the wife of a budding novelist. And St John Quartermaine is a lonely bachelor in his 50’s who is desperate for company and almost totally ineffectual in the classroom, even if he is a decent, nice chap.