The play explores the fine line between having a laugh and bullying. To begin with, much of Phil and Spanky’s humour seems to dilute the severity of their taunting and highlights the difficulty of distinguishing between typically Scottish, working class banter and brazen abuse.
Just about everyone joins in making fun of each other's appearance or other quirks. They have a habit of picking out things that individuals have no control over;
Pygmy Minimusand Lucille exclaims
He's a dwarf for God's sake
It's like somebody's put a dustcoat on a chimp
The use of parody, sarcasm and quick wit in the slab room disguise the torment that Phil and Spanky inflict on those around them.
Curry also relies on this at points, making a cheap joke out Spanky's lack of artistic talent:
You've got trouble trying to draw water from that tap over there.
This level of harassment has been normalised in the slab room and initially serves to entertain, not concern, the audience.
As the play develops, so too does the bullying, particularly from Phil:
I had him tied to a radiator but he must’ve chewed through the ropes while I was having a…
When Phil’s mistreatment of Hector descends to violence, he is called out by Spanky, his fellow tormentor. He calls Phil a
sadist indicating that he has gone too far.
Phil’s extreme behaviour can no longer be passed off as good-natured banter and Hector is not his only victim; Alan, Curry, Sadie, Jack and eventually Spanky all feel Phil’s wrath.
It is evident from the play that the line between humour and bullying is fine. In the end the characters who have been the victims of the bullying (namely, Hector and Alan) come out on top, suggesting that kindness, tolerance and diplomacy could be the key to success.