A Small Family Business: Synopsis

Cast: 7 male / 6 female
Running time (approximate): 2 hours 25 minutes (not including the interval).
Availability: A Small Family Business is available for both professional and amateur production.
Acting edition: Published by Samuel French.

A Small Family Business is set in a two-storey house during the late 1980s. It is the author's preference that the play is performed as a 'period' piece of the late 1980s / early 1990s to best reflect the playwright's intentions and to reflect the society that is portrayed in the play.


Ken Ayres
Desmond Ayres (His son)
Harriet Ayres (Desmond's wife)
Jack McCracken (Ken's son-in-law)
Poppy McCracken (Ken's daughter; Jack's wife)
Samantha McCraken (Their youngest daughter)
Tina Ruston (Their eldest daughter)
Roy Ruston (Her husband)
Cliff McCracken (Jack's brother)
Anita McCracken (His wife)
Yvonne Doggett (Harriet's sister)
Benedict Hough (A private detective)
The Rivetti Brothers (Lotario, Uberto, Orlando, Vincenzo, Giorgio) (Italian businessmen)

Note: It is intended the Rivetti brothers all be played by the same actor.
Jack McCraken arrives home to discover a surprise party, thrown by his wife Poppy, to celebrate him taking over the running of the family furniture business, Ayres and Graces, founded by his father-in-law, Ken. Jack makes an inspirational speech about the need for total honesty and incorruptibility in the business.

The party is disturbed when Benedict Hough, a private detective, arrives to privately confront Jack with the fact he has caught Jack’s daughter Samantha shoplifting (to the value of £1.87). Hough threatens prosecution unless he gets a job with the family firm. Jack shows him the door. Scorned by his wife and other daughter Tina, for not standing up for Samantha, the women admit they have both committed minor indiscretions in the past.

The next day, Ken confides to Jack that the firm’s furniture is being copied by an Italian firm and believes there to be a spy in their firm. Jack contacts Hough and hires him; Hough drops the prosecution threat against Samantha and Jack becomes tainted by the very thing he despises. Hough discovers a firm called Rivetti is receiving the information. Jack realises the Rivettis are a contact of his brother, Cliff and goes to confront him. Unaware he is out, Jack discovers Cliff’s wife is having an affair with - it appears - most of the Rivetti brothers.

Cliff admits to buying their own furniture at cost and selling it on to the Rivettis. A family meeting reveals practically everyone knows about the deal and benefits from it in some way and that Ken’s son Desmond has been investing money in a restaurant in Minorca in a bid to leave his wife, Harriet.

With the family and business in danger of being torn apart, Jack realises Hough is also aware of this information. He asks him round and offers to pay him off, Hough says he wants more money than he is being offered or he will blackmail the family. Telling him to wait, Jack leaves to consult with the others and to raise more money; the family, though, decide they should hire one of the Rivettis to kill the detective. Hough, meanwhile, attempts to find the money originally offered, but encounters Polly, Tina and Samantha. They fight over the money and in a scuffle in the bathroom, Hough is killed.

Coming together for a birthday party for Ken, Jack finds the Rivetti’s price for disposing of Hough’s body is to use the family firm for drug distribution. Jack reluctantly agrees, while attempting to morally justify his actions. As he re-affirms his original speech, Jack is unaware Samantha is in the bathroom, addicted to the same drugs.

Article by Simon Murgatroyd. Copyright: Haydonning Ltd. Please do not reproduce without permission of the copyright holder.