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 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.
HE: The day, the day. It has been divested.
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: I don’t know,
I know not
Know, I don’t
SHE: Has it been ceased
HE: The day?
HE: It has been… discontinued
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
SHE: Speaking for the two of us
HE: Still I would not say
HE: When I look out of the window
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
SHE: Look. It’s. Pissing down.
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
SHE: Of course
HE: Green grass
SHE: Grass of daylight
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
SHE: In admiration? Lost
HE: Not Digo? Vanished?
SHE: You cannot be.
SHE: In admiration. No
SHE: Your eyes are blind
HE: I cannot see
SHE: For you are lost?
HE: But not
SHE: In admiration.
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
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: Oppose – Like
HE: No, no ourselves
SHE: We have relationship, but we are not related
SHE: Disparate but not divided.?
SHE: And disassociated.
HE: No, imprecisely, approximately.
SHE: Spiritually opposed.
SHE: Not inexactly
HE: (facing out) A ying.
HE: A yang?
SHE: A symbiosis?
HE: We are of a relationship.
HE: (Facing out) A ping and a pang.
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?
HE: A fastidious day.
SHE: Impeccable. Above reproach?.
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: Surprised . No.nor ,me not. You wouldn’t be. In the least bit .
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.
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?
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
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….
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.
HE: Not… congruous
SHE: It is.
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
SHE: No I’m not.
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
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.
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.
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?
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-
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?
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.
HE: A humper.
SHE: A bumperhumper.
HE: I’d better clear the bathroom.
SHE: That is clear.
HE: Crystalline. A lucid bathroom.
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.
HE: Is it a left leg, or a right leg?
SHE: A left leg.
HE: Of course (slight pause) He’ll miss that.
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?
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
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
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.
HE: Yes, but I would not say so.
SHE: A military bearing.
HE: No barely military.
SHE: You cannot be barely military
SHE: You must be uniform
SHE: It is the naked truth.
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.
SHE: So sorry WHO
HE: Of course it won’t
(He takes the case and stuffs his excess baggage into it)
HE: There’s too much junk in here.
HE: Odds and ends.
HE: Excessive raiment.
HE: Bits and pieces?
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.
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)
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 swallows some)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
HE RINGS BELL
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 RINGS AGAIN
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.
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
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.
SHE SITS ON THE CASE STARING OUT AT THE AUDIENCE.