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Silent Running

    by Paul Norman


Black Comedy Play Script: 'Silent Running' by Paul NormanHarry Falcon has run his talent agency for 20 years, supplying various types of acts from strippers to singers. The magic has begun to wear off for him, and of late, following his wife's departure, he has let the business suffer. To compound his problems, he is suffering from the medical effects of too much Scotch over too long a period. He hasn't paid Mary, his secretary, in over three weeks, and he's starting to mix up the agency's bookings. Chas, his friend and Doctor, is concerned about Harry's health and tries (yet again) to stop him from drinking.

Harry on the other hand still feels in control, and wants nothing more than to be left alone in his room with a bottle of scotch and his classical music. Robin Parkes, the boyfriend of one of his best-liked strippers calls round and tells Harry that Jaz (the stripper) is giving up the act, so Harry reluctantly stops giving her any work. Three weeks later, when Jaz visits to find out why all her work has dried up, she is incensed to be told the reason, and Harry is amazed to discover afterwards that he is developing feelings for her - a girl half his age.

On a pretext, Jaz visits Harry - again raising his hopes. Realising this, she gently but firmly tells him their relationship must be platonic, as even though Robin was in the wrong, she forgave him. She takes an unusual interest in Harry's relationship with his ex-wife - a conversation which is cut short by her need to go to work. Shortly afterwards, Robin arrives at Harry's flat and firstly accuses him of trying to have an affair with Jaz, then proceeds to tell him that he has a new job - booking acts at the Brunswick Club - and that Harry's contract with them is now terminated. The Falcon agency's acts are rubbish and Harry never returns phone calls. This isn't the first contract Harry has lost of late and he becomes very dispirited and hits the bottle, hard. On Chas's next visit, his condition has worsened considerably, to the point where, finally refusing any treatment, Chas washes his hands of his friend accusing him of wallowing in self-pity.

Harry later reveals to Jaz that after all his setbacks and problems he wants nothing more than quiet solitude - like a submarine rigged for 'silent running'. He cannot understand why she keeps visiting him, a drunken old has-been. "Does there have to be a reason, isn't being a friend in need ,enough?". Jaz comforts him as he stares at his imminent death - a simple cuddle is (just about) all he wants; to feel close to another human being. Robin arrives to confront Jaz about her presence there, he cannot understand it at all. They argue, and in the middle of their exchanges, Harry dies, alone at last.

'Silent Running' is a black comedy; a moving insight with humorous flashes depicting one man's descent into depression, cloaked with the stench of Scotch and filled with the destruction of his relationships, both personal and professional. However, 'Silent Running' is a comedy, it says so right there on the front cover. It is not a tragedy and should not be played as one. If it contains an element of tragedy, then this should emerge only as a by-product of the action.


(3m, 1f)

  • Harry Falcon - 45-55, a broken extrovert, alcoholic, lonely, runs an entertainment agency
  • 'Jaz' Carter - 20's, one of Harry's strippers, tries to help him, kind-hearted
  • Robin Parkes - later 20's, the boyfriend of Jaz, jealous type
  • Dr 'Chas' Bowler - 40-60, Harry's friend and Doctor

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