Magritte’s Room

magrittes-room-largeRene Magritte’s picture PERSONAL VALUES was painted in 1952. In it Magritte juxtaposed ‘normal’ images in a way that challenged ideas of proportion and perspective which gave them a disquieting Rene Magritte’s picture PERSONAL VALUES was painted in 1952. In it Magritte juxtaposed ‘normal’ images in a way that challenged ideas of proportion and perspective which gave

So far as the play is concerned Magritte’s Room is Personal Values set in a hotel room. We encounter two characters, SHE and HE, a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’ though in keeping with the spirit of the picture they could be played by the same sex.

In addition to Magritte’s setting, the room should contain hotel objects, such as trunks, dressing table, mirror etc. The relationship between the objects and what they enclose is seen to be absurd. Large objects get stuffed into small ones, and huge amounts of material emerge from tiny containers. This should be funny and disturbing to an audience. Whan the play opens, ‘He’ is dressed in a hotel waistcoat etc. ‘She’ in chambermaids uniform. He is tall, overbearing, with long arms and busy hands. She is small, bird like and quick.

The two act out a series of fantasies changing character as they do so.


Here are the first few opening pages. If you would like to read more, please go to the download section.















Both characters are on stage.  He faces down and to the right,

away from her.  She faces up and  holds a trumpet.


He repeatedly attempts to say something, nodding and raising. his shoulders.  She turns, lifting the trumpet to her lips.  He turns towards her gesticulating, and seems about to speak. She puffs her cheeks ready to blow.  He turns away.


They repeat the gestures, frustrated.  Finally he speaks but to the wall L. not to her.




HE: The day – has been discontinued


To the opposite wall


HE: It has been terminated


SHE: Do I care?


HE: Did you not utter?


She shakes her head


HE: Utterly not.


SHE: Utterly?


HE: The day, the day. It has been divested.


SHE: Eliminated


HE: I am inclined to say


SHE: I see to say. you are. Leaning?



She puffs out her cheeks again

Lifts the trumpet

then changes her mind


 He shrugs


HE: I don’t know,


I know not


Know, I don’t


SHE: Has it been ceased


HE: The day?


SHE: Finally?


HE: It has been… discontinued


SHE: Entirely?


HE: Yes


SHE: Precipitated


HE: Yes


She raises the trumpet again and once more brings it down


SHE: It is so dismal


HE: I wouldn’t say so


SHE: You have said you would not say


HE: Singularly.


SHE: Speaking for the two of us


HE: Still I would not say




HE: When I look out of the window

I find

The sun is shining.




SHE: There is no window


HE: Even so


SHE: There is no daylight


HE: It was daylight


SHE: Formerly it was day


HE: Now is midnight


SHE: Sun, shine


HE: No


SHE: Look. It’s. Pissing down.


HE: Pissing?.


SHE: Yes


HE: With sun.


SHE raises the trumpet and puffs her cheeks

Again she lowers the trumpet

SHE:    I don’t perceive.


HE:                                                Is it not midnight?


SHE:                                                (gesticulating) That is a noonday sun

HE:                                                Mad dogs.  I don’t know.  I know not.  I do not know


SHE:                                                It cannot be midnight -time to

fix eyes on the horizon


HE:                                                There is no horizon


SHE:                                                The purple sun is shining green grass of daylight


HE:                                                Photo-synthetically


SHE:                                                Of course


HE:                                                Green grass


SHE:                                                Always.


HE:                                                Green


SHE:                                                Grass of daylight


HE:                                                Yes


SHE:                                                In the…


HE:                                                Ineluctability of time


SHE:                                                The world is indigo


HE:                                                Dark indigo of midnight


SHE:                                                In Digo.  Here I am.  In Digo


HE:                                                Lost


SHE:                                                In admiration? Lost


HE:                                                Not Digo? Vanished?


SHE:                                                You cannot be.


HE:                                                Lost


SHE:                                                In admiration. No


SHE:                                                Your eyes are blind


HE:                                                I cannot see


SHE:                                                For you are lost?


HE:                                                But not


SHE:                                                In admiration.


HE:                                                No…


SHE:                                                Somewhere else


HE:                                                There isn’t anywhere else


She lifts the trumpet and puffs her cheeks. Then lowers it



SHE:                                                I don’t see it pissing.  It is pishless


HE:                                                You have an error in perception


SHE:                                                Perception is without error


HE:                                                Perception is not here.  It is without


SHE:                                                Pershepshon


HE: It’s your eyes – Your eyes are wrong.


SHE: My right eye’s right.


HE: You’ve dotted them.  Your eyes.


SHE: Mine eyes?  Mine eyes?


(she lifts the trumpet and plays)  “ Drink to me only with thine eyes”


HE: Name that tune




(She plays again)


“Mine eyes have seen the

glory of the coming of the Lord…”




HE:                                    You’re repeating. Yourself.


SHE:                                    I must reiterate


HE:                                    You’re up to your usual, aren’t you?


SHE:                                    My usual?  It’s your usual


HE:                                    Not mine


SHE:                                    Your habit.


HE:                                    Not my usual.


SHE:                                    Well, your customary?


HE:                                    I don’t have a customary..  I have… .an uncustomary.

SHE:                           You cannot have an uncustomary without a customary. They gainsay


HE:                                    Refute


SHE:                                    Contradict


HE:                                    Oppose – Like


SHE:                                    Ourselves


HE:                                    No, no ourselves


SHE:                                    We have relationship, but we are not related


SHE:                                    Disparate but not divided.?


HE:                                    Conjoined


SHE:                                    And disassociated.


SHE:                                    Exactly.


HE:                                    No, imprecisely, approximately.


SHE:                                    Spiritually opposed.


HE:                                                Exactly


SHE:                                                Not inexactly


HE:                                                (facing out) A ying.


SHE:                                                And…


HE:                                                A yang?


SHE:                                                A symbiosis?


HE:                                                We are of a relationship.


HE:                                                (Facing out) A ping and a pang.


SHE:                                                Sentimental.


She raises the trumpet to her lips again

He raises a hand




SHE:                                                It’s still pissing:


HE:                                                 Not clement?


SHE:                                                Cats and dogs.


HE:                                                Not equine?


SHE:                                                No


HE:                                                A fastidious day.


SHE:                                                Impeccable. Above reproach?.


HE:                                                 Depressing?


SHE:                                                 I assume.




She throws her arms out.


HE:                                                Cats and dogs?  I see no cats and dogs; I feel

no cats and dogs. I touch no cats and dogs.


SHE:                                                See what I mean.  You’re up to your usual.





She raises the trumpet  He stops her

by speaking quickly.


HE:                                                It would not surprise me if we there was  a bit of



SHE:                                                Not. There was not

HE:                                                No not


SHE:                                                No


HE:                                                No?


SHE:                                                NO!


HE:                                                NO


SHE:                                                Surprised . No.nor ,me not. You wouldn’t be. In the least bit .


(slight pause)


HE:                                                Me not


She falls about, laughing hysterically.


SHE:                                                I’ve seen your least bit.


HE:                                                Listen girl!  Listen.


SHE:                                                I could not do otherwise


HE:                                                You would  be dumbfounded.


SHE:                                                You’re doing it again.


HE:                                                Incredulous.


SHE:                                                (facing out) Sceptical.


HE:                                                (facing out) Dubious.


SHE:                                                (facing out) Debatable.


(slight pause )


There you are.


HE:                                                Of course I are.  If you are I are.


SHE:                                                Are both are?


l                                    PAUSE


HE:                                                I don’t hear thunder…


SHE:                                                That’s what I intimated.  Another part of the forest


HE:                                                I can’t


SHE:                                                Hear?  See. Noises off


HE:                                                I can’t hear them.


SHE:                                                Of course not .. In the distance!  Growing.

Quieter and quieter. Except often.


HE:                                                I can hear them. Not.




SHE:                                                There’s something wrong with your ears.






HE:                                                Well there’s nothing wrong with my ears.


SHE:                                                (shouting)  I said.  There’s something wrong

with your….


HE:                                                (to audience) What? What? What? What?


SHE.                                                God’s fucking artillery, charge of the lLight



HE:                                                Charge.  There is no charge. The machine’s broken


SHE:                                                A storm; a flash; some lightning; the sky…opening up.


HE:                                                 Storm? Flash.? Lightning? (She looks out of the

window) You’re looking out of a window….


slight pause


SHE:                                                There isn’t a window.


HE:                                                Of course there isn’t


SHE:                                                WHO, I’m calling you.


HE:                                                That’s not my name.


SHE:                                                Of course it’s not.


HE:                                                You’re WHO I’m Sydney.


SHE:                                                Of course I’m not.


HE:                                                Sydney – It’s quite unsuitable.


SHE:                                                Incompatible


HE:                                                Not… congruous


SHE:                                                It is.


HE:                                                Naturally.


SHE:                                                You’re Sydney, I’m WHO.


HE:                                                Of course. You’re not. I‘m WHO You are Sydney

SHE:                                                No.  No, no, no.



                                    PAUSE. He suddenly rushes round tapping walls



SHE:                                                Is it Sunday today?


HE:                                                No it’s not Sunday.


SHE:                                                What day is it if it’s not Sunday.


HE:                                                Well, it’s not Monday.


SHE:                                                Of course it’s isn’t. It’s not Thursday either.


HE:                                                No it isn’t Thursday. It mustn’t be Thursday


SHE:                                                I’ve been counting the days.


HE:                                                I wouldn’t do that if I was you


SHE:                                                Well of course


HE:                                                Naturally


SHE:                                                No I’m not.


HE:                                                Who?


SHE:                                                Me.


HE:                                                I can observe that.


SHE:                                                That? (pointing to audience).


HE:                                                No, I can’t see that.


SHE:                                                What ? Is that the that you can’t see?




HE:                                                We’d better do the packing.




                                    Suddenly they each rush at a case and

Frantically stuff items into it. There is

far too much.  They  become frenetic,

rushing round, bumping into each other,

falling over etc.: They stop for a moment,

gasping for breath.


                                    She looks away. He stuffs some of his

baggage into her case.  A moment later she

does the same to him. Slapstick..   Just as

suddenly they stop.




SHE:                                                It isn’t the right day for a journey.


HE:                                                Well it’s not Thursday.


SHE:                                                It’s not Monday either.


HE:                                                That’s why it isn’t Monday.  They’re not travelling on



SHE:                                                It’s not the right day.


HE:                                                No it’s not the right day


SHE:                                                No.




HE.                                                Is it never the right day?


SHE:                                                I would never say never.


HE:                                                Even if it was?.


SHE:                                                I wouldn’t say so. No.




HE:                                                It’s a bloody bit chilly.


SHE:                                                It’s more than chilly.


HE:                                                What’s more than chilly.


SHE:                                                Icy’s more than chilly.


HE:                                                Well of course it’s more than chilly.

It’s icy.


SHE:                                                I said it’s more than chilly.


HE:                                                Well if it’s more than chilly it’s not

chilly. It’s more than chilly.


SHE:                                                That’s what I said.


HE:                                                Freeze


SHE:                                                Your fucking balls off!






SHE:                                                They will not feel the cold, I’m happy to say


HE:                                                Is that why you’re happy?


SHE:                                                To say, only to say.






HE:                                                Is that why you’re happy?


(slight pause)



SHE:                                                No that’s not why I’m happy.


HE:                                                I wish I was happy.


SHE:                                                Few people are happy.






HE: They’ll be feeling the cold.






SHE: The wind’s in the east.


HE: Depends where you’re standing.



She picks up the trumpet again and is

About to blow.  He quickly stops her.



SHE: That’s why it’s chilly.


HE: A bloody bit chilly.


SHE: MORE than chilly.  We’ve agreed.


HE: That’s why you’re happy.


SHE: Don’t worry your head.


HE: Not my head.






SHE: They’ll be wrapped up warm.  Poachers

Jackets.  Thick scarves.  Long sleeved

Vests.  Sheepskin underpants.  Thermal

Socks.  Tram drivers’ mittens.  Woolly

Balaclavas.  Leather trousers.  Plastic macs.

Fur lined SHEETS.  Rubber overshoes.  Non-

Slip soles.




HE: I’m over the moon.


SHE: Is that where you are?





SHE: The weather doesn’t matter to the likes of them.


HE: Not their likes.  No.  Of course, their likes are unconcerned.


SHE: They’ll be leaving them behind.




SHE: They will of course, travelling in a



HE: A first class carriage?


SHE: Naturally.


HE: I have not been made privy, to the travelling arrangements.  I am in the dark.


SHE: They are travelling in the dark.


HE: Are they doing a moonlight?




SHE: The arrangements were left to my consideration.


HE: No gusts around the knees.


SHE: You can be sure.


HE: Something for an excursion.


SHE: A flask.  A thermos.  Hot tea.


HE: A thalmos, of course.


SHE: Laced.  A robust beverage.

No, they will not feel the cold.


HE: How could they?  And a snack?

A small repast?




SHE: A hamper.


HE: Fortnum and Mason.


SHE: Both.


HE: A humper.


SHE: A bumperhumper.




HE: I’d better clear the bathroom.


SHE: That is clear.


HE: Crystalline.  A lucid bathroom.


SHE: Transparent




HE: (Shrieking) The bathroom is shut.


SHE: The bathroom is open.  Only the door is shut.


HE: I will open it


SHE: The door.


HE: I will


PAUSE (She doesn’t move)


SHE: (shouting)  There’s nothing in the bathroom.




HE: (shouting) There’s something in the bathroom.




SHE: (shouting) There’s not much in the bathroom.




HE: (shouting) There’s an iron bath and toilet in the bathroom.




SHE: There’s little and nothing in the bathroom.


HE: Little or nothing.


SHE: Whichever you choose.


She opens the bathroom door.

We hear banging pipe noises.


She re-enters.  She is now dressed in a

Nurse’s uniform.  Under her arm she

Carries a false leg.


 She waves it.



SHE: His lordship left a leg.


HE: Oh has he?


SHE: He’s left it behind.


HE: A foot behind.


SHE: Approximately.


HE: Is it a left leg, or a right leg?


SHE: A  left leg.


HE: Of course (slight pause) He’ll miss that.


SHE: Naturally.


HE: It’s not as though it was a right leg.


SHE: No it is not.





HE: Put it in its case.


SHE: The upper case or lower case?


HE: I would say.  The lower case.




HE: The lower case will be most… fitting.



She takes a perfectly shaped leg case from

under the bed.


 It is clearly too small to

accept the leg.


 She struggles all round the

stage fighting to fit the leg in.


He does not help her.


SHE: It isn’t.


HE: Is it not?


SHE: Fitting.


HE: Is it unfit?


SHE: Not fit.


HE: The leg.


SHE: The case.


HE: In that the case… you must try.


SHE: Of course.


HE: The upper case.





She brings another case.  It is enormous

She climbs into it with the leg.  It closes

after her.  From inside we hear her

banging and shouting.  He ignores her.


She struggles to get out.  The lid repeatedly

opens and slips shut again.  Meanwhile he

prepares the picnic.  He takes each item

carefully from the hamper and displays it

to the audience.



HE: Morning gathered mushrooms on a bed of English lettuce.  A bouquet of Scottish raspberries laid in cubes of crystal ice.  Colchester oysters.  Yorkshire pudding.  Lancashire hotpot.  Lakeland trout.  Bakewell tart… Look at this pair of Irish Lobster .



SHE emerges from the leg case.



SHE: I could tell you a story about these lobster.


HE: Was there a porpoise behind them?


SHE: It’s more.


HE: Once upon a time


SHE: It’s so much


HE: More.


SHE: It’s not a fairy story?


HE: It is more.


SHE: Has it been eating someone’s porridge?


HE: It is a love story.


SHE: Did it make the world go round?


SHE motions towards the lobsters with reverence



SHE: They were caught like this, the hen and the cock, clutched in each other’s arms.  They just would not let go.


HE: Oh beautiful!  So ardent!


SHE: And did they rage against the dying of their



HE: Tragic.


SHE: They died screaming in the pot.  But at the last they were together.


(He holds up the lobster)


HE: Now they are at peace.


SHE: Death did not them part.




SHE: (sighing) I do admire you.

You’re so cultured WHO.


HE: I would not say I’m cultured.


SHE: Cultivated.


HE: Yes, but I would not say so.


SHE: A military bearing.


HE: No barely military.


SHE: You cannot be barely military


HE: No?


SHE: You must be uniform


HE: Naturally.




SHE: It is the naked truth.


HE: Authentic.


SHE: A gentleman would know.


HE: A gentleman’s gentleman.




HE: Is her ladyship’s vanity case packed?


SHE: The lid won’t… Fasten.


HE: Do it…. Slowly.


SHE: It will not close!


HE: ‘Won’t close’ girl, ‘won’t close’.


SHE: It will not.


HE: If you will it, it will.


SHE: (shrieking) It won’t bloody shut.


HE: Language!


SHE: So sorry WHO


HE: Of course it won’t


SHE: Shut?


(He takes the case and stuffs his excess baggage into it)


HE: There’s too much ­junk in here.


SHE: Junk?


HE: Odds and ends.


SHE: Garbage?


HE: Excessive raiment.


SHE: Trash?


HE: Bits and pieces?


SHE: Scrap?


HE: You’ve been forcing it.


SHE: I always get it wrong.


HE: Can’t put a pint into a quart pot can we?


SHE: Yes! No! Of course not


HE: There’s a number of things you’ve got to learn.


SHE: Oh I try WHO.  I do really try.


HE: You do not rise to the standard this establishment expects.


SHE: I’ve not had the background.


HE: No, you have not.


SHE: I need guidance…


She gives a long titter very high and irritating.  He stands and waits for her with his head moving slowly.




HE: Are you being impertinent?


SHE: (Mock horror) Oh no!  Oh no!


HE: If I thought you was being impertinent I should have to consider taking down your bloomers.  (She giggles again)  Don’t giggle  (with menace) Can’t stand giggling.


(slight pause)


Now let’s look at that case.




They crouch by the case


HE: You’ve got too much stuff in here, that’s the trouble.


SHE: Have I done wrong?


HE: What’s this?  Bloody great bottle of perfume!


SHE: (shrieking) Bloody great bottle of perfume.


HE: Extracted from the genitalia of rodents.


(He throws the bottle over his shoulder and it crashes and breaks on the floor)


What’s this?


SHE: Her Ladyship’s sleeping pills.


HE: She won’t need those.


(He takes the top off the bottle and scatters the pills)




SHE: Pills for waking up?


HE: Lovely.


(he swallows some)


Banana flavour.


SHE: What about these?


(She picks up another bottle)


HE: These?  Mustn’t touch these.


SHE: Are they needed on the journey?


HE: They’re his Lordship’s.  When the spirit’s willing but the flesh is weak.


She giggles.  There is a slight pause then the lines go rhythmically


HE: This load of rubbish?


SHE: Wrinkle cream.


HE: Pig’s fat and vinegar…This?


SHE: Face pack.


HE: Shit and sewerage.


She picks up a tube.  Squeezes some stuff on her hands.


SHE: This….is madam’s hand lotion.


HE: (Sniffing exaggeratedly) Well you never know where the hands have been.


The pace builds up.  They both work the case throwing things out.


SHE: Depilatory paste.


HE: Removes Madam’s unsightly hair.


SHE: Dental polish.


HE: Cleans Madam’s unsightly teeth.


SHE: (sing song) Nail varnish, night tan, day tan, foot cream, leg cream, eye drops, nose drops, face powder, body powder, ear drops, lipsticks, toilet water.


(Slight Pause)


Skin tonic, hair tonic, night cream, day cream, cold cream, hot cream, warm cream, sour cream, ice cream.


HE: Her Ladyship needs a few things to travel with.


He goes over to the tiny wardrobe and takes out an armful of clothes.  The quantity is ridiculous.  Dresses etc come out with their arms tied together as though from a magician’s bag.  She picks up items of clothing and tries them against herself.  She sits down at the dressing table and looks at her image in the mirror.  He stands behind looking over her shoulder.  She changes scarves hats etc.


SHE: Here WHO, don’t I look glamorous?


HE: Oh very couture.


SHE: Oh WHO you are a caution!


HE: Prudence Madam.


SHE: You’re an absolute caution!


HE: That is my name.


SHE: Prudence.


HE: Remember your place SHE.


SHE: I could hardly forget.


(Pause) (He wrings his hands)


HE: Would Madam like me to help Madam.  He rests his hands on her shoulders and looks with her into the mirror.


SHE: WHO, take your hands off me.


He shrinks back


HE: At once Madam.




SHE: Yes Madam?


HE: Are you being impertinent?


SHE: I must ask myself, Madam.


HE: I shall call the manager.


SHE: What will you call him?


She picks up a bell from the dressing table and rings it vigorously.  He exits through the bathroom door and reappears quickly wearing a manager’s black jacket.


HE: Her Ladyship called?


SHE: Are you the manager?


HE: Oh no my Lady. I would’ve thought that was obvious.  I am the under-manager, if you will forgive me for saying so. The manager is most particular man


SHE: Fastidious


HE: Concerning whom he has under him


SHE: Well come over here, under-manager,  I have a serious complaint to make.


HE: I am at Madam’s service.


SHE: It’s about your man WHO


HE: Ah WHO, yes.  We have had numerous complaints.  Is WHO not giving Madam….every satisfaction?


SHE: He is forgetting his position.


SHE: He does tend to be a little lacking in respect.


He retreats, walking backwards


HE: Will that be all Madam?


SHE: Come back!


HE: Yes, Madam.


He returns


SHE: Were you looking at me just then?  Did I see you looking in the mirror?


HE: (Horrified) Me Madam?  Looking at Madam?  Oh no Madam.  Except that, perhaps yes, yes I was looking in a manner of speaking.  I was as not as it were looking, I was seeing – if Madam will pardon me saying so.  The fact is, and I do hope Madam will not mind my mentioning it to Madam, that Madam’s tits are showing.


SHE: Oh disgraceful!


HE: Hanging out all over the place.


SHE: How dare you!  I have never been so insulted!  I shall call for the manager.


HE: Oh I wouldn’t do that Madam.  He does tend to be a very emotional man.




SHE: This is an impudence.  An impudence.


HE: Of course, Madam is absolutely right.  It isn’t for myself you see, it’s the lower orders, the serving people.  Salt of the earth, of course, but they do tend to get excited at the sight of an upper class tit.


SHE: (Plaintively)  Call the Manager.

At once do you hear!




He exits via the bathroom door and re-enters wearing a tail-coat that is absurdly large for him.


HE: Has her ladyship rung?


SHE: Indeed, I rang.


HE: It was wrong (beat)of her Ladyship (beat) to ring.


SHE: Indeed.


HE: To ring (beat) when you should not have rung  (beat  )is wrong.


SHE: To ring – It was a proper use. Ringing was not wrong That (beat) is why I rang


LONG PAUSE.  He stands rubbing his hands

And is about to speak but stops himself, then

Suddenly launches into a speech


HE: I was on the floor below, if you will pardon my saying so, and I distinctly heard a noise. Screams shouts, ringing of bells. Cries in  the night!  Except that it’s morning ha-ha – if you’ll pardon my saying so… Now this isn’t  at all rare in a large international hotel.  Oh dear me! No! Roars! Howls! Bellows! Just part of the daily round, as you might say.  Or perhaps you’d say the nightly round, if you’ll forgive me for saying so.  Bats in the belfry.  Weird strange things.…

Let me tell you of an incident that happened only the other day….  There was a gentleman at reception.  I walked up to the desk.  l said: Is there anything I can do, for your worship?  He said: I want to register, and so I gave him a reception form and he wrote Mr ­­and Mrs Smith. London.  Of course I had my suspicions that this was not the gentleman’s proper name, after all the years in this business you get an instinct for these things. But I kept quiet.  I said nothing.  I remained silent.  I kept my counsel.  I was detached. Aloof..  I didn’t say a word.  I KEPT MY TRAP SHUT.  But as the porter took the gentleman’s case I said  Excuse me sir, pardon my saying so, but your worship appears to be on your own and yet you’ve registered as Mr and Mrs Smith? (beat) Do you know what he said to me?  Do you know what he said?

                                                (slight pause)            He said – I am Mr and Mrs Smith.

(slight pause) He only ate a single breakfast


(slight pause)


He looks into the mirror and starts laughing.   Falling about. While he laughs she covers her face in white greasepaint.  She stands and bears down on him.  He retreats towards the large leg case.  She pushes him backwards.  He falls inside the case.

His laughter grows less audible as she covers him in garments.


She closes the lid.  Silence.