My mum and I look nothing like each other. I’m 5 feet 10 and fair-ish, while she’s 5 feet 2 (and a bit) and dark. People are often surprised to find we are mother and daughter as, as far as appearances go, we appear to be unrelated. Family likenesses and traits can run much deeper than appearance, though, and, I think most people who know us, would actually say my mum and I are very alike. We certainly share a sense of humour and outlook on life, as well as a range of mannerisms and expressions. We also – obviously – have a shared history and a very quick shorthand when talking to each other about things that have happened in our lives. My gran, who we lived with throughout my childhood, is also a part of this – and I sometimes pity my husband when he has a meal with us and has to endure all three of us talking quickly and extensively about a range of family – and other- issues, jumping around from topic to topic in a way that must be bewildering to anyone who doesn’t know the links that we no longer have to voice to each other.
I’m always interested in looking for these family ties/links/mannerisms when watching plays too. I vividly remember, as a 6th form student, watching a production of “Death of a Salesman” in which Biff Loman mirrored some of his father Willy’s gestures and ways of speaking, really communicating to the audience how influenced he was by his father, and adding to the sense of tragic inevitability surrounding aspects of his story.
Family is vitally important in my current project with The Rose Company – Lady Jane Lumley’s Iphigenia. Mother/daughter and father/daughter relationships are at the very heart of the play and the first half of the text, which was the focus of today’s rehearsal, has an explosive interchange between brothers: Menelaus and Agamemnon. We really started to explore this today, thinking about them as brothers and about the history they have shared. By the end of the rehearsal we had found a shared movement/gesture – clapping someone hard on the shoulder in order to dominate – which both use to effect: Menelaus to threaten Senex and, later, Agamemnon to prevent Menelaus leaving. We also worked with the content of their argument, so that it felt as if they were really “pushing each other’s buttons”, raking up issues from the past and deliberately taunting each other – in a way that often only family members can! We will continue to work further on this in rehearsals later this week, but a promising start was certainly made and the final run of the argument late this afternoon was excitingly charged.
Here’s a photo of them, with Senex, in rehearsal today, just before the argument begins.