Act One, Scene Eight
ODR: Now then, ladies and gentlemen, by now you will have seen much of what Durham has to offer, and I’m sure you will agree it is a quaint and pleasant little city. But how is such a city kept running? I hear you ask. Well, the Durham Student Union, or DSU, is responsible for the organisation and direction of the city, ensuring that the requests of the student body are met and that any complaints are dealt with quickly and efficiently. The executive council is currently in session and, if we are lucky, we may be able to gain a quick peek at their work.
ODR exits, curtain up.
DSU council chamber. PRESIDENT, WELFARE, SOCIETIES and DUCK are seated around table, surrounded by mounds of paper – SOCIETIES is asleep.
President: So, that’s agreed then: the DUCK Officer is not responsible for the university’s avian population except where the aforementioned population is affected by Section 22, Subsection 42.
DUCK: Mr President, what’s Subsection 42, again?
President: (sighing and opening massive folder). Section 22, Subsection 42: “In the event of a JCR owing outstanding debts, filing for bankruptcy, being convicted of criminal charges, or rebelling against DSU authority, the DUCK officer” – that’s you, remember? – “is authorised to repossess all JCR property for the annual DUCK auction.” Clear?
DUCK: So, we get all college birds?
President: What do you think we’ve been eating these last three years? Now then. Next on the agenda: Item 1739, our reclamation of the Science Site. Welfare, I believe you have been liaising with the army.
Welfare: Er, yes, I’ve got it around here somewhere. (He scrabbles through piles of paper). Ah, here we go: “Feelin’ fine”.
President: “Feelin’ fine”? Is that the official report?
Welfare: Er, yes sir, yes, Mr President, it is. From the Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Forces, typed up on special paper and everything.
President: Well, that’s good.
Welfare: Yes sir, it is. But, ah, his adjunct added this addendum: “With the occasional hiccup”.
President: “Hiccup”? Does he elaborate?
Welfare: No, Mr President, but his junior officer added this addendum, saying: “Well, a bit under the weather at the moment”.
President: (dangerously). “Under the weather”?
Welfare: Er, yes, then we have further addendums to the previous addendums: “A few potholes in the road”, “Facing several obstructions”, “Encountering minor setbacks”, “moderate setbacks”, “severe setbacks”, “Storm in a Teacup”, “Singing in the Rain”, “I am the Walrus”…
President: (shouting). Enough!
Societies: (jerking awake). No, not a quaddie!
President: Welfare, what does this nonsense actually mean?
Welfare: Well, Mr President, it would seem that Dr Butterwood’s latest paper on whether mutants have feelings has caused a bit of a stir. The Aidan’s and Collingwood regiments are refusing to fight, something about diplomatic negotiations being the only moral course of action. The Grey Army is even contemplating opening a field hospital for the mutants outside the library.
President: What? But, this is the DSU, we don’t negotiate with anyone. What about the rest of the army?
Welfare: Well, they seem to have fallen back to the New Inn, but the officers say it’s a real challenge.
President: And this is all Butterwood’s doing you say? I thought we’d got the Science Board to deny him funding. Where’s he getting the money from?
Welfare: We don’t know, sir. The paper is DSU-funded, though.
President: (menacingly). Societies, do you know anything about this?
Societies: (avoiding eye contact). Well, it was such an engaging pitch: a Make-Everyone-Happy Society. I thought: we need some happiness around here, so I didn’t think twice about ratifying it. He said there were a few expenses involved – balloons, face paint, sambuca – but they seemed reasonable enough, so I okayed the whole thing.
President: Oh, Klute. This Butterwood is beginning to get on my nerves. (He picks up his phone). Janine, could you send the Trustees in?
Welfare: Mr President, do you really think it’s necessary to call the Trustees in on this? I mean, it’s not like Butterwood’s a threat.
President: Oh, but he is, Welfare, he is. The DSU stands for order. Butterwood, with his free speech, is a threat to that order, and thus to us. This doctor needs to understand that he is dealing with powers beyond his comprehension.
Welfare: That’s going to be a bit difficult, sir. I mean, how is he supposed to understand something that he can’t comprehend?
President: Oh, shut up, Welfare.
Societies: What about the Representative? I don’t trust that man. He’s too mercenary, too unpredictable.
President: It will be fine. The Trustees are under our control, and so is the Representative. There’s nothing to worry about, you’ll see. Ah, here they are now.
Enter the TRUSTEES.
Trustees (all): You called, Mr President?
President: Yes, I did … Where’s the Representative?
Trustees (all): The master is not with us.
President: No, no, I am master, he is just the Representative.
Trustees (all): Yes, master.
President: Oh, stop doing that.
Trustees (all): Yes, master.
President: Oh, for goodness… (places his head on the desk).
Trustees (all): You summoned us, Mr President.
President: Yes. Dr Butterwood, he’s been making a nuisance of himself. I want him to know who is boss, understand? Nothing violent, just give him a good scare.
Trustees: Yes, master.
President: Oh, and don’t let the Rep know about this job, I want to keep him out of this. (Pause). Well, off you go then.
The TRUSTEES exit.
Welfare: Are you sure we can trust them, Mr President?
President: Of course we can, Welfare. What could possibly go wrong?