While Byrne employs a range of literary devices to bring his play to life, conflict is the engine of the story.

Conflict between characters

Each of the main themes brings conflict to the play:

  • conformity versus rebellion
  • age versus youth
  • dreams versus reality
  • bullying versus humour

While each of the themes is explored through the main characters' circumstances, the characters themselves are often set up in opposition to each other, with pairs of characters representing different 'sides' to the themes in their dialogue.

Phil's inner conflict

Inner conflict is also reflected through Phil. He experienced conflict about:

  • his place in the world: ...I just might have the savvy to realise there was more to life than giving myself housemaid's knee on them slabs
  • his mental health: D'you think going off your head's catching?
  • his ambition but unwillingness to conform to societal norms: I'm not other people, Jack

Conflicting audience emotions

The audience is left with their own inner conflict. Do we think Phil admirable for his rebellion and ambition, or unsympathetic because of his bullying? Should we laugh at Hector or feel sympathy for him? Should we be entertained or offended by the characters for their often aggressive and mocking humour?

Throughout the play, the sad stories of each character are revealed with genuine and relentless humour. This leaves the audience with divided emotions, possibly wanting to laugh and cry at the same time.