In the play Bull by Mike Bartlett, the protagonist Thomas fails to distinguish his personal life from his professional life, and in the end, Thomas reaches his lowest point of the play both professionally and personally as they adversely affect each other. The overlap of Thomas’s personal and professional life is seen when Tony pressures Thomas to answer questions about his personal life. Thomas responds stating that he wants to keep his personal life private, but Tony continues to pry and Thomas reluctantly reveals his answers. Ultimately, Tony and Isobel use Thomas’s answers against him to make him feel paranoid and doubt himself.
In the end, Thomas is fired, which not only hurts his professional life but his personal life too. The overlap of Thomas’s personal life is seen when Isobel discloses that she followed Thomas and his ex into a coffee shop to gather information on him. Using the information Isobel learned, she hurts Thomas even more by reasoning that his personal life will be affected by his professional failure, as his friends and family will probably be annoyed that Thomas lost his job and that his ex will not want Thomas to see his son often so he does not negatively impact his future.
Furthermore, in the production of Bull at the Young Vic Theatre, the pivotal moment of Thomas’s professional and personal demise is shown when he is lying on the floor with the water cooler on the ground and leaking around him. The striking image shows Thomas at his lowest point both professional and personally since he is now unemployed and his personal life will subsequently be impacted as well. As shown, Thomas cannot not escape his personal life in his professional life as Isobel and Tony successfully extract personal information about him in a way to professional undermine him.
The distinction between one’s personal and one’s professional life is also tested in the tragedy Waste by Harley Granville Barker, in which the protagonist Trebell puts so much focus on his career that when his professional life is put at risk, he kills himself. In the beginning of the play, it is revealed that Trebell has never been married and is not interested in having a relationship. His main goal in life is to win over the Tory party and disestablish the Church of England. Since Trebell is not concerned with having a personal life, his professional and personal life are enmeshed as one.
For example, when Trebell and Amy have an affair and Amy gets pregnant, attempts an abortion and dies, Trebell’s personal life is in shambles causing his professional life to suffer as well. Trebell’s professional life changes after a dispute between the members of the Tory party in which they decide that Trebell is not an adequate politician and not to support him. In the end, Trebell cannot deal with his professional loss, he decides he does not have anything else to live for, and commits suicide.
Furthermore, in the production performed at the Lyttleton National Theatre, Trebell’s outward appearance matched his inner desolation as he appeared less polished and more disheveled. Through the performance and reading of the text Waste, one can see the consequences of not distinguishing ones’ personal and professional life as Trebell’s are one in the same. In Little Eyolf by Henrik Ibsen, the character Alfred’s profession is a writer, but as he struggles to write his book Human Responsibility, he decides to take on a new life meaning and occupation to take care of his handicap son Eyolf.
Alfred’s personal and professional life overlap since Alfred decides to give up his professional goal of being an author to devote his life to helping his son. When Eyolf dies, Alfred’s personal and consequently his professional life is destroyed since his mission to provide for Eyolf is gone. In the production of Little Eyolf at the Almeida Theatre, one can Alfred’s desperation and lack of both a personal and professional life when Alfred is sitting by the fiord in a grief-stricken way, lamenting that he will from now on only think about Eyolf.
Since Alfred did not distinguish his personal life from his professional life, he feels the weight of his failure and grief. The Homecoming by Harold Pinter deals with distinction between one’s personal and one’s professional life as well. Sam’s occupation is a chauffeur, and while working years ago, he witnesses Max’s wife have sex with another man. For a long time he is able to compartmentalize and separate his professional life from his personal concern and empathy for his brother, but in the last scene of the play Sam collapses and admits to the family about the affair.
In the production played at Trafalgar Theatre, Sam is so struck by the information that he held on to from his professional life that he struggles to say his line about the affair and falls to the ground, not getting back up for the remainder of the production. Although it seemed like Sam tried to separate his professional life from his personal life, it backfires on him since his relationship with his brother and his health will be forever changed. Through this representation of the distinction between one’s professional life and one’s personal life, the audience can see that the two are not mutually exclusive.
In the musical Kinky Boots by Cindy Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, the protagonist Charlie becomes consumed with his desire to make his professional life successful that he ends up hurting relationships in his personal life. In order for Charlie to cope with his insecurity and trying to live up to his father’s expectations, Charlie puts pressure on himself to succeed professionally that he ends up overworking his workers, disregard his fiancee, and verbally abuse Lola . When Charlie hurts his personal relationships, his professional life suffers as well because the workers and Lola decide to quit after Charlie’s mistreatment.
In the production at the Adelphi Theatre, the audience could see the harmful effects of projecting the difficulties from one’s personal life into one’s professional life when Charlie becomes hurtful. However, Charlie is able to recognize that his hubris and desire to succeed hindered his personal relationships in the song “Soul of a Man”. Unlike other plays tragic endings, Charlie is able to come to terms with his personal insecurity and distinguish his professional life from his personal life, win back the support of the workers and Lola, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.