The Slab Boys by John Byrne, is part one of a trilogy set in the slab room of A.F. Stobo and Co. Carpet Manufacturers in Paisley. The play takes place on a Friday in 1957 and centres around the lives of the factory's employees, particularly the working class Slab Boys.
The following plot summary highlights the key incidents in each act.
The audience are introduced to the Slab Boys, Phil, Spanky and Hector, and begin to get an insight into the characters and relationships in the carpet factory. The work of the slab room is monotonous and Phil plans to escape by going to Art School.
Slab Boys meet Alan
Alan Downie, a new recruit to the design room is introduced to the Slab Boys and the theme of social class and division is introduced. The Slab Boys are quick to mock him and he becomes a victim of their sharp banter, alongside Hector.
Phil and Spanky speak openly about Phil’s mother's mental illness and he describes a recent episode in detail, revealing his vulnerability to both Spanky and the audience.
Sadie, the tea lady, visits the slab room to sell tea, cakes and tickets to the staff dance, which is taking place that evening. Her presence highlights the contrasting manners of Alan and the Slab Boys.
Hector and Lucille
The beautiful Lucille enters the slab room and Phil questions her about Hector’s claim that she will be attending the ‘Staffie’ with him. Lucille considers it an insult and sets the record straight.
Alan discovers Phil’s art folio by accident and both he and Spanky are impressed with Phil’s artistic talents. Mr. Curry is shocked to discover the folio belongs to Phil and is angered by Phil’s application to Art School.
In response to Lucille’s rejection, Phil offers to give Hector a makeover. The act ends with the revelation that Phil has left Hector partially naked, tied to a radiator with a bleeding ear, and sent his clothes to be ‘restyled’. The lunch bell rings and signals the end of Act One.
Having escaped his abduction, a dishevelled Hector appears at the window, terrifying Lucille. A procession of farcical, physical comedy follows as characters enter and exit the slab room, forcing Hector to hide before finally getting his (now ridiculous) clothes back.
Sadie speaks openly with Lucille about her desire to leave her marriage and her experience of breast cancer. The generation gap is evident and Lucille's positivity contrasts with Sadie’s jaded outlook on men and life.
The hospital calls to inform Phil that his mother has disappeared. This leads Phil to lash out at Alan, revealing his aggressive nature.
The wages arrive at the slab room and Phil and Hector’s pay are missing. Phil is given his P45 form and is dismissed from the carpet factory.
Lucille and Phil
Phil asks Lucille to the dance. Lucille accepts the offer before realising he was asking on behalf of Hector.
The play ends with a quick resolution of plot threads which lead to the end of the working day. The Slab Boy’s presume that Hector has lost his job only to discover that he has been promoted to the Design Room.
Phil's Art School rejection
Alan brings news that the Art School has phoned and Phil has been unsuccessful with his entry application.
Alan and Lucille go to the staffie
Lucille arranges to meet Alan and go to the dance with him, provided he brings his father's MG. She points out to Phil that she could never have gone with Hector -
Look at him...he's a skelf.
Phil’s mother has been found. Spanky accepts his position in the slab room and Phil cartwheels off the stage, revealing a glimmer of optimism as he says
Giotto was a Slab Boy!