The action takes place amid a suburban family during a spell of freezing weather. The father, Gregory, labours under the delusion he is a ‘great comedian’ and that his routine has the ‘true paranoid despair’ of the twentieth century. To the chagrin of his careworn wife, Mabel, he pins his future on that vain hope; and she also fails to realistically connect to her present situation, harking back constantly to the barren bleak relationship she formerly had with a sinister scientist called Robert Garstin. And Gregory and Mabel’s daughters, too, have problems: Daphne is involved with a brash young American salesman, Bill, while Alice has a mysterious fiancé, Derek, who permanently wears a bowler hat and insists on eating only ice cream. When Derek is invited to tea, both parents are alarmed to find out he is a snowman. But despite his dismal, short-lived prospects, Derek burns with a hard gem-like flame.
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