There are specific moments in your life that you wish you had someone to share them with and there are several friends, whom on this night, I wish I could have shared this experience. But like with every situation in life some scenarios are to be experienced alone and those memories are the ones that will stay with you forever.
I watched ‘Things I Know to be True’ by Andrew Bovell at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith last Friday, produced by Frantic Assembly. What a great piece of writing! For the first time in a long time I was moved (well utterly flabbergasted), I was transformed by a shift of emotions and inspired by some brilliantly observed writing about familial life. The play was about an ageing couple, the husband retired, the wife still working as a Nurse with four grown up children. The play opens with the youngest daughter returning home after travelling across Europe in a gap year of self discovery. All of the children, now adults one married, one in a broken relationship and one a city flier are still treated like children, mainly from their Mum. All have varying degrees of bitterness and resentment toward their Mum’s ability to constantly undermine their choices, criticise their personalities and having an insight to see the truth. The Dad, a man that shys away from having a voice and in need of a quiet life. Don’t we all.
I recently worked with Frantic Assembly on the Intermediate workshops where Neil Bettles (http://dowhatyouloveforlife.com/blog/2014/07/do-what-you-love-interview-neil-bettles/) Director/Choreographer shared some of the exercises that the company of the show were working on with us, we did some beautiful movements, lifts, hugs that left my soul shouting at me that this is what I should be doing, not stuck in an office all day. Would I ever get bored, no, I love challenges!
However, I digress. This play left its mark on my heart, on my soul, on me. And I know I am not the only one that walked away from seeing the show feeling like I went through a roller coaster ride of emotions, I’m not the only one that felt like I had been sucker punched in the gut as I could relate to many of those moments when your Mum looks at you and she knows the truth you are attempting to hide from her. Knowing she is right but wishing she was wrong and couldn’t read the miniscule detail of inflections in your voice or how the look in your eye reveals the inner hurt or disappointment you feel. Anyone who has been in that position when parents know how to get to the heart of you and rip you apart with words, whilst you live your life begging for approval inside. But you’re encased with a hardness that becomes your coping mechanism in life, in relationships. Never wanting to turn out like your parents and yet becoming the very essence of what you hate most about what or whom they are. Early on in your teenage life, you made a pact with yourself you would never become them. (Now the play isn’t entirely pessimistic, there is hope). But it is down to the individual to take the steps of change, that journey that only we can make. Only we can explore, learn, grow from and sometimes still don’t know who we are. We are yet to find the person within the shell we look at everyday. The first act took me on this journey and the actors played their parts incredibly accurately that I felt like I was watching members of my family from different periods of my life and to be honest they way the first act left me feeling I couldn’t see where the second act was going.
SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this section if you haven’t seen the play yet!
The second act opened with the truth slowly unfolding for each person, revealing the lies they had hidden behind, a need to be the person they truly are, hoping for acceptance within family life that we long for and so desperately seek. But even the strongest of families have their limits. Mine did. Which is why we seek solace in our friends, who don’t judge us in the same way and care more for our well-being. The climax, which I didn’t see coming (and this is where the play had earned its weight, its gravitas that impacted on me and the audience) is when the one person who always brings everyone together, who fought the hardest because they had the most difficult journey in life. Where the Matriarch of the family worked hard to make ends meet, to ensure her children had the opportunities she didn’t, dies unexpectedly. My heart broke, I could feel the tears welling up uncontrollably with the rest of the audience. Every “Not her” which was uttered on stage opened up the memories of losing my own Mum, it reminded me of the pain we all felt, the anger my Dad had towards everything and everyone. It reminded me of the space that could never be replaced, the “words yet to be spoken”, the lives she left behind.
I was speechless. This writer came to do a job and he did it. I wanted to share this moment with someone, with my friends I knew who would love the play as much as me. I felt inspired again, moved again and realised what’s missing from my own work is “heart” and that’s what this play has, a lot of heart and soul. The actors were/are incredible to impart such a journey, often I forget why I love acting and this is why. As I walked out of the theatre, I heard a girl behind me say “I want to phone my Mum and tell her everything I just saw”. I thought, it is when you don’t have a Mum to call anymore that’s when a play has done it’s job. It left me with a whirlwind of sentiments and memories from my past and now it was off to impact on someone else’s life.
Not to be too cynical but I do think, is it me being dramatic, is it the personal journey I am on in life, is this what resonates with me at this particular time? What is it? Why? Who knows, it’s an individual journey for everyone and things I know to be true is that no matter how long we have on this earth, try to not take your eyes off the road.