The match-cutters finally rebel against working conditions in which young girls had their jaws rotted away by phosphorus, and discipline was maintained by a system of crippling fines and sanctions. A grim episode, perhaps, but not many minutes of the play are allowed to pass before the natural ebullience of the traditional Cockney sparrow helps to create sparkling entertainment which warms the heart, yet retains the essential drama of the central theme. The incongruously named "Hope Court" is the setting for much of the play, for it is there the workers live in shabby tenements. Desperation turns Kate, the tenement girl, into a reckless strike-leader, and complicates her courtship with Joe, a docker. Annie Besant, the liberal reformer, champions the strikers' cause and plays a vital part in bringing about their ultimate victory over what was then a callous management.
Act I The cutting-room at the match factory. Hope Court. Beside Gladstone's statue. The Freethought Bookshop. On the way to the House of Commons
Act II Hope Court. The Bookshop. By the river. Outside the Company's Head Office. Charrington's Brewery
Within a permanent basic full-stage set (Hope Court), the other scenes are formed either with simple insets, by traveller curtains or drop cloths, or by making minor alterations to the basic set/