Common People

Dominic Kimberlin is previewing the plays going up in Mermaids’ SAND (St Andrews New Drama) Festival, which runs from 3rd March to 9th March. In this article, he talks to Alice Shearon, who wrote Common People and who has provided not only a summary of the play and an insight into her creative inspiration, but also a brief excerpt from the play itself. 

Common People by Alice Shearon

Goes up:  Thursday 6 March & Friday 7 March: The Barron Theatre, 7:30pm; Tickets £4

More information: Common People


At a prestigious University in 1997, Brendan T. Quigley is struggling to get to grips with being the only student not to be born into a world of posh parties and long-standing tradition. Penelope and Jonathan, on the other hand, appear to have it sorted, having been together since Sixth Form – a veritable University love story. But maybe that’s not the case, and maybe when Brendan’s friend Robbie comes to visit, Brendan will learn something really important, for once: that just because you think you know a person doesn’t necessarily mean you actually know them.


What were your motivations behind writing this piece?

Alice: Common People is a comedic look into how prejudice can colour everyone’s perceptions. Brendan P. Quigley [is] a jack-of-all-trades but master of none who cannot wait to begin his new life as a student, but soon finds out that the people surrounding him are more ‘Lah-di-dah’ than laddish. He realises that life is complicated, and it’s about more than where someone comes from or how they are born. People are complex, and he tells his story of how life in your first semester at University can often change the way you look at the world, for better or for worse.

The play was inspired by the famous song ‘Common People’, by Pulp, in which the singer, Jarvis Cocker, attempts to get across to a nameless female he meets at a bar that no matter how much you try to be something else, this isn’t how you should live your life.



BRENDAN: When I was younger, teachers always told me that all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s funny, though, because I reckon some beginnings probably aren’t very interesting. And if the beginning isn’t very interesting then is the writer justified to start in the middle? If you think about it, a lot of good stuff starts in the middle. Like Romeo and Juliet. If that shite had started at the beginning, probably at the point Romeo dipped his wick in his first lassie and Juliet was first annoyed by her fucking mother then that play would be well long. And what about Wuthering Heights? That book basically had three middles, fifteen beginnings and where the fuck was the ending? So yeah, forgive me if my beginning isn’t very interesting. If I were to show you every little bit from my childhood in order to give you a real idea of why I ended up in this position, then we would be here awhile. If I was a bit smarter, this story would zip around and show little flashbacks of the most poignant moments of my childhood. Zip, the moment me mam dropped me on my head as a baby. Zip, the first time I stole something. Zip, my first sticky encounter with my sexuality and why I can never look at Sandra Gillespie the same way ever again.

(Boys on the bench jeer.)

BRENDAN: (Cont. Louder, slightly hardened voice, annoyed by disruption): But who am I to say what were the defining moments of my childhood? The first time I shoplifted wasn’t very interesting-

ROBBIE: Probably because you decided you’d nick a can of dettol, you thick sod!

 by Alice Shearon


Dominic Kimberlin


Photo credits: Nick Gonzo