It is the evening of the Teacher's Union dance, and Joe and Frank can't afford to get in. Frank is on a promise with a young teacher named Anne, whom he has had to avoid meeting beforehand lest she find out he can't afford to get in. These tradesmen's apprentices are embarrassed by their lack of funds and try every trick they can think of to get in, but spend the whole play outside the doors, seething over the 6s entrance fee, and the chastity their poverty has thrust on them.
In his introduction, leading critic Fintan O'Toole writes that 'within a a very simple story and a very short play a whole range of social tensions is dramatised; in the way the mundane story of two young men waiting outside of a rural dancehall which they haven't the money to enter takes on the metaphysical lineaments of heaven, purgatory and hell.'
On the Outside was first performed on stage at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin, on the 30th of September 1974.