The Common Room

Painting from The Common Room by Ben Hart, the silent watercolourist

The Common Room takes place in an unspecified institution where a group of misfits have been gathered together by unexplained circumstances. Together they struggle with each other’s preconceptions and with their own voices. Among these characters are an aria-composing janitor, a self-proclaimed wizard, a passive-aggressive lounge singer from ‘the circuit’, a silent watercolourist, a well-intentioned do-gooder with a ghostly companion, an uptight academic concerned with ‘the voice’, a waylaid wild man and a goonish existentialist. The Common Room is a play for voices and about voices, agency and entity. It was developed during Farquhar’s Cocheme Fellowship at Byam Shaw and was recorded in the former library there.

The six episodes of The Common Room were broadcast daily on Resonance FM at 10am beginning on Sunday 6th November, ending on Friday 11th November.

An excerpt from the script of The Common Room

But what is it that everyone has lost?  Well, no – not everyone.  What have Bruce Whatever and The Doctor lost, exactly?  Is it their confidence?  Or something more mysterious?  I’m sorry if I’m being rather thick here, but is their loss anything to do with vocal chords or nodes? Nodal polyps?

Oh dear, I’m in a muddle.  I’m sorry, I’m talking too much again, but I am concerned and wonder if there is anything any of us could do?  I myself have never been able to sing, so I have lost nothing except the great gift of song from the off, so to speak.

I was off from the off.  [She laughs rather sheepishly at the stab at humour.]

But I am a great admirer of the human singing voice.  I cannot imagine my life without songs.

[She begins to sing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ with as much care and feeling as any rendition.]

You can sing, Effie.

EFFIE Oh, I quite forgot myself, got carried away.  Oh, Wizard – Johnny, I mean.  How funny, I feel like Dorothy – well, not Judy Garland exactly, but I suddenly feel that I can sing.  The Bramalds always said I was out of tune.  They taught Maude and me.  Maude was never encouraged either.  But Dorothy – well, Judy Garland – could sing.  What was it she wanted?

To go home.

EFFIE Oh yes, of course.  I have a sense of déjà vu or its acoustic equivalent.  But – where was I?  Oh yes, I was wondering if anything could be done for Bruce Whatever and The Doctor.  I wonder if they just need something along the lines of those documents the others were given.

FANNY The others?

EFFIE Dorothy’s friends, who had what they were looking for all along… but went along with a suggestion that they could find courage, kindness and intelligence from a wizard in an emerald city.  He just gave them permission really.

THE DOCTOR Ah, permission.

EFFIE Yes, permission.

FANNY I know about permission.  I gave it to myself.  [Rather touchingly]  I live the dream.  Everyone said I was a dunce, but I said even a dunce can dance.


Thanks to

The Common Room was written and directed by Marcia Farquhar. Produced by Anna Hart.
Theme music from 'My Good Looks (Are Going To Hell)' by J. Maizlish Mole.
Recorded by Sam Willan on the 2nd of August 2011, in the former library of Byam Shaw School of Art, London.
Starring: Ben Hart as the Silent Watercolourist; Ella Finer as The Doctor; J. Maizlish as Bruce Whatever; Jem Finer as Harry Puccini III; Katy English as Effie Craig; Kitty Finer as Fanny Bruce; Reyner Hutber as Johnny Niles, the Ageless Wizard of the Kentucky Hills; and Tom Chick as Percival Silley.