Main characters Rita and Frank are the only two characters whom we see on stage, though other people are referred to by both of them. We hear about Denny, Rita's husband, about Julia, Frank's partner, and about Trish, Rita's flatmate, who attempts to kill herself. But it is Rita and Frank whom the audience gets to know best.
Rita: Rita is a working-class, twenty-six-year-old hairdresser who has taken the decisive step of enrolling on a literature course at the Open University. It has been a difficult decision as it means that she has to break away from the restrictions imposed on her by her husband and by the community in which she lives and works. Indeed, Rita's choice is a stark one: it is between starting a family, which Denny wants, or studying. In deciding to study and become more educated and culturally aware, Rita changes her life completely.
She gradually becomes absorbed by culture and literature. It is only after her flatmate attempts suicide that she begins to realise that art and literature cannot provide all the answers. However, she decides to continue as a student and finally passes her examination.
Frank: Frank is a university lecturer in English Literature with a drink problem. He has had one failed marriage and his present relationship wit Julia is not an easy one. However, he does appear to have a comfortable middle-class lifestyle and has achieved some minor success as a poet. His job, nevertheless, bores him and, in fact, by the end of the play, he has been sent away to Australia by the university authorities because of his drunken behaviour. Rita breezes into his life like a breath of fresh air; the story of the play is the story of their developing and changing relationships both as teacher and student and on a more personal level.