Tom Murray Writer

Out of My Head

Howdy and please find below an extract from my play 'Sins of the Father'  and a couple of short plays. 

My award winning play 'Sins Of The Father' had a very successful tour--- good audiences and full houses.   

Here's what the critics said.

A very decent psychological thriller by Tom Murray...  Two first-rate performers, Lesley Hart and Jordan Young...  Rowan Tree has worked hard to sustain professional touring theatre in the scattered communities in the Borders in the face of bureaucratic indifference at both local and national level.  The work here may be small in scale, the venue modest.  But the quality of what is on offer more than justifies their struggle.
(The Times)

It’s a brilliant situation that Tom Murray sets up in this new Rowan Tree play, full of possibilities for debate around issues of crime, punishment, sin and redemption...  Offers an unusually intense theatrical experience to audiences.
(The Scotsman)

Drama that stays with you long after curtain falls...  One of the most compelling pieces of theatre that I have seen in a long time...  It was thrilling.  The acting by Hart and Young was so intense that you actually forget you are watching a play.  You won’t get much better entertainment in the Borders for a long time.
(Southern Reporter)




With Lesley Hart as 'Emma' and Jordan Young as 'Robert'.

Lesley's stage work includes Future Proof a 2011 Edinburgh Fringe first
at the
Traverse. Other work includes: I Was a Beautiful Day,

Shimmer and Outlying Islands. Film and Television work include
Casualty, Fast Romance and Taggart.

Jordan's stage work includes Black Watch and Gagarin Way. TV work
includes Rab C Nesbitt and Legit.

Directed by John Carnegie. Scenery and Costumes designed by Gregory Smith.  
The winds batter a remote cottage in the Borders.  Emma enters this 'animals' lair' for her long planned encounter with its owner, Robert.  Years before, the worlds of Robert's father and Emma's mother collided in a way that would affect their children's lives forever.  Today, that situation is going to be resolved.

Tense, passionate, edge-of-the-seat theatre, Tom Murray's involving drama was joint winner of the inaugural Rowan Tree Playwrighting Competition.  Having previously presented a rapturously received workshop version of the script in its Play and a Platter season at the Eastgate Theatre, the company is proud to bring it to full fruition in this production.

John Carnegie directed the workshop version of Sins of the Father for Rowan Tree, for whom he has also directed Fredric Mohr's Barry and his own Hermiston and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.


Present day:  Scottish Borders.  A very remote rundown cottage-- A door on the left leads to a bedroom.  A door at the back onto the outside world.  A window to the left of this door. There is one armchair, and one table with one chair.   There is a sink, a stove, cupboards and a working surface on the right.  Late morning.  A howling wind rattles the outside of the cottage.  The cottage door flaps open in the wind.  Emma arrives at the door.  She hesitates, knocks and pushes the door open further.


EMMA:  Hello.  (She comes in warily.  She carries a rucksack.)  It’s me.  I came.  (She comes into the centre of the room, all the time looking around her) The animals’ lair, Emma.   (She checks the bedroom without going in.)  Hello.  (She closes the bedroom door and steps on a piece of broken crockery.)  Ahhh.  (She picks up the broken plate and cup, finding more and more, till she eventually gives up, and searches, and finds a bin.  The bin is full of broken plates and cups.  She adds the latest.  She sits down at the table.   Robert Preston enters.  Emma jumps up.  Preston stops abruptly on seeing her.  Emma stares at him as if she has seen a ghost.  She keeps the table between her and Preston.) Emma James. 

PRESTON: You came?

EMMA: I thought you had…

PRESTON: Run away?

EMMA: Yes.

PRESTON: (She continues to stare at him.  He comes into the room.  He closes the door.  Emma moves away from him.)  You’re afraid.  I hoped you wouldn’t be.  

EMMA: I’m not.  It’s just…

PRESTON: (He opens the door.)  If you‘re afraid, go.  I don’t need afraid.

EMMA: I’m not afraid.  You startled me, that’s all.  (She places the rucksack on the table.)  There.  I’m staying.  (She moves from out from behind the table.  He closes the door.)

PRESTON: You‘re shaking.

EMMA: It’s cold in here, that’s why. 

PRESTON: You get used to it.  Tea?

EMMA: What?

PRESTON: Tea?  I’ve only got tea.  Meant to go into town…  But didn’t.  I don’t go in very often. 


PRESTON: I like to get things…  Enough to do me.  I didn’t want to miss you.  You

might think I’d ran away.  Then you might have…

EMMA: I’ve got no intention of running away.  I say something. I do it.  You?

PRESTON: It was me that asked you here.

EMMA: Not an answer.

PRESTON: What do you take?   (Re: her look)  In your tea.

EMMA: I’m fine.   

PRESTON: (He searches in the cupboards.  He finds tea and sugar.)  No milk.  I usually keep it outside.  In a bag you know.  To keep it chilled. 

EMMA: I don’t want anything.

PRESTON: (He picks up a bottle of water and pours it into a kettle.)  And don’t worry about the water.  Pure rain water.  No milk I’m afraid.  I meant to go into town to…

EMMA: You said.

PRESTON: I like coffee.  But we’re out.  What?

EMMA: You already said about the milk and going into town.  (He puts on the kettle, and puts tea bags into two cups.)  And I said I don’t want any tea.

PRESTON: Tea warms you.  You said you were cold.  I’m used to it.  I forget out here you need something to keep you warm.  Breakfast? 

EMMA: I’ve eaten.   And it’s nearly lunchtime.

PRESTON: You look hungry.  Is it?  I lose track sometimes.  Lunch then?

EMMA: I’m not hungry.  I don’t want tea.  Breakfast, brunch or lunch.  I don’t want anything.  I’m fine.  (He ignores her and prepares two cups of tea.)

PRESTON: Do you take sugar?  I do.  Probably take too much of the stuff.   It takes a minute to boil. An old stove like this.  I can time it to the second.  After all this time.  Sit down.  (She doesn’t.)

EMMA: I’m not here for a holiday and polite conversation.

PRESTON: Do you always stare like that?  It’s rude you know.  Didn’t your parents ever teach you…Sorry.

EMMA: Don’t ever say you’re sorry.



Two very short plays below.


Mrs Howard-- Mid thirties.



(  Telephone rings in Mrs Howard’s living room. She tries to ignore it.  Eventually she answers.)

VOICE-- Mrs Howard.

MRS H--  Yes.

VOICE—  A moment of your time please. 

MRS H-- I’m very busy.

VOICE--  One little question Mrs Howard.

 MRS H-- I haven’t the time for questions.

VOICE—  A life altering opportunity Mrs Howard.  This chance will not come along again.  A new dawn.  The choice is yours.  One little question and you can leave all your troubles behind you.

MRS H—I don’t have any troubles to leave behind thank you very much.

VOICE-- I think you do Mrs Howard. I can sense it.  Surely you can spare five minutes to change your life. 

MRS H--  I don’t need my life changing.

VOICE-- Some people wait until it’s too late don’t you think Mrs Howard? You never can tell what’s round the corner.   Just one tiny little question and…

MRS H--  I‘m perfectly content.

VOICE—Of course.

MRS H--  I am!

VOICE--  I believe you Mrs Howard.

MRS H--  I’ve got something in the oven. I really have to…

VOICE—Let it burn.

MRS H— Pardon!

VOICE--  What does it matter?

MRS H-- It matters to me.

VOICE-- Haven’t you ever wished to escape?

MRS H-- Don’t be silly.

VOICE-- Haven’t you?

MRS H-- Doesn’t everybody.  I can’t let it burn.

VOICE--  What’s a little burnt offering if after one little…One, simple, straightforward, question… And if you answer…You win the key.

MRS H—A key!

VOICE-- The key.

MRS H-- To a car? A house?  We’ve got both. Three cars in fact.  Mind you what we need three cars for I don’t know.  

VOICE--  To a door. 

MRS H-- I’ve got plenty of those as well.

VOICE-- Beyond that door is freedom. Freedom from your humdrum and monotonous existence.

MRS H-- Excuse me! My life is far from humdrum or monotonous thank you very much.  I’ve plenty to keep me occupied. And my burnt offering is doing just that.  Goodbye.  (She goes to slam the phone down but doesn‘t.)  I don’t need a new dawn.  Just some peace and quiet.  This is my night you see.

VOICE—  One little question.

MRS H--  John goes to Rugby training.  The children are at the guides and cubs. I get to watch all my programmes on the TV.

VOICE— You nearly died Mrs Howard didn’t you?

MRS H— I’m too busy running after everybody for my life to be humdrum.

VOICE— As a baby. They gave you the last rites.

MRS H— They didn’t think I was going to make it.  

VOICE— One question. 

MRS H--  No.

VOICE-- One question.

MRS H--  No.

VOICE-- One tiny little…

MRS H--- What, what?

VOICE--  Are…?

MRS H--  No I said. (Pause.)  I’ve so much to be thankful for.  I’m so lucky.  No.

VOICE-- One little question.

MRS H-- What?

VOICE-- Are you happy?

MRS H--  I’m content.

VOICE--  Key in the lock.

MRS H—I live a full and active life.

VOICE-- Turn the key in the lock.

MRS H--  I’m safe. 

VOICE-- Door… 

MRS H— Don’t.

VOICE--  You nearly died once.

MRS H--  They didn’t think I was going to survive.

VOICE--   You’ve survived.

MRS H--   I live a full and active life. 

VOICE--   They gave you the last rites.

MRS H--    I am content.

VOICE--  Are you happy?

MRS H--   I am the luckiest person alive. 

VOICE--  The door…

MRS H--   I am…safe.

VOICE--  Closes.

(Phone goes dead.)





 Train carriage.


 Ticket Inspector.

 Young Man

 Young Woman.

 At one end of the carriage the young man and young woman stand as if the train is full and all the seats are taken.  They are facing each other but not looking at each other. The woman is reading a book.  When the Ticket Inspector enters and starts his story they act out his thoughts when indicated. They do not speak.  At other times they act like two strangers, totally disinterested in each other.

Ticket Inspector enters. He goes around the ‘audience’ checking tickets as if they are passengers. 

 INSPECTOR-- Tickets please.   At the ready.  Thank you.

(  Actor can improvise questions from passengers. ie: time of arrival etc.  He stops short of the man and woman and turns back to face audience.)

Maybe leave them for now.  What do you think?  We don’t want to cut in at the wrong moment do we?  Mind you it might get them talking.  Look at them.  You can tell they’re aching for one of them to start the ball rolling. Come on just talk and everything else will fall into place.  I promise.  That’s what happened to me you know.  You see I used to travel this train. Now I… 


But that’s another story.  Back to our lovebirds eh. Everyday travelling the same route.  Fate throwing them together for a reason.  If only they…Don’t you just want to shout at them?  Talk and everything will fall into place.  For I believe that.  Everything falling…I’m a romantic.  That’s my problem.  Always have been.   ‘Sleepless In Seattle.’  That’s my favourite.  Talk and everything will fall…

Maybe I will ask for their tickets. 

(He goes to do so but stops and turns away, his back now to the couple.)

 No.   For what if I’m wrong?  No you’re not.  You’re not wrong.  You have an instinct.   I have you know. I can tell. I look at people and say…Doctor. Housewife.  Policeman.  Out of uniform of course.    I can tell.  Just by looking if they’re…Happy. Or sad.  And I try to…I know their futures.  I write them you see. Inside my head of course. It gets me through the day. Makes it more…Not that I’m unhappy in my job of course.  Let’s knock that one on the head right away.  I’m perfectly happy and contented.   It’s just…Those two. Everyday they travel this line and they never speak and I can tell…I can tell they’re aching inside to…But they’ll be okay. I have a gut feeling about them.  In the long run it’ll be worth all the misery…It will.  They don’t need me to bring them together. Fate will find a way.

( Woman drops her book. Inspector turns round then back again, his back to the couple. )

He’ll pick up the book. 

(The man doesn’t move. The woman picks up the book and carries on reading.)

Because he’s a gentleman. A romantic.  They’ll get talking. The ice will be broken.  And they’ll plunge right in.  For the fates have decreed. 


The fates have decreed that their eyes meet.

(The couple’s eyes meet.)

He says something witty and intelligent.

(Man ‘talking’ woman listening intently.)

They laugh…together.

(They laugh.)

And the fates have decreed that life will become a blur, of butterflies in the stomach, of sleepless nights and running for the train and…

( Man brings out a red rose from his pocket.)

 He’s a gentleman. A romantic. 

(Man gets down on one knee and brings out a ring.  The couple hug and kiss.)

They live happily ever. 

( Long pause as if  seeing a memory.)

I just have to look.  Happy. Sad. Happy…

( The couple argue. She throws the ring at the man.)

 (Determinedly upbeat.)

Tom and Meg in ‘Sleepless in Seattle.’  That’s my favourite.    

(Man brings out flowers which the woman rejects.)

The fates decree that boy wins girl, boy loses girl and boy….and just when you think…

(The woman and man go back to original position of disinterest.)

Boy wins girl.  I’m a romantic you see. 

 (Trains pulls into station.)