This week Fiona Lindsay looks at sibling relationships.
Brothers.... "And the one who's chasin' doesn't know where the other one is taking him. And the one who's being chased doesn't know where he's going."
Sam Shepard's iconic play True West connects with an audience on many levels. The point of access for most people and subsequent deeper engagement is through the individual brothers Austin and Lee and their sibling relationship. The play throws into question whether the brothers are different sides of the same coin or just completely individual and not at all alike. I'd like to argue that they are both. Isn't this what makes a relationship between siblings a bond like no other?
True West examines this umbilical link and the damage that trying to sever it can do. Dramatic texts are full of this exploration: Edmund and Edgar in King Lear, Biff and Happy from Death of a Salesman, Jaimie and Edmund from Long Day's Journey into Night - to name but a few.
In all of the above, the father figure looms tall; both absent and present, and the cord binding these relationships is very tangled. The unravelling of this knot is what fascinates us - mostly because we recognise each twist and pull. In rehearsal for True West the director, Phillip Breen, encouraged the actors to draw upon their own familial experiences in order to better understand and connect with brothers Austin and Lee.
Laying bare deeply felt memories in front of relative strangers can be unnerving and sometimes even harrowing. An atmosphere of trust is vital and privacy too, (what goes on in the rehearsal room stays in the rehearsal room etc.. ) However, I'm delighted to say that when I recently interviewed the director and cast of our newly released production of True West, they were generous in what they revealed about their own creative process.
This week we publish the first of those candid interviews. A bit like In The Psychiatrist’s Chair, we are drawn in close to the person being questioned and share an intimate understanding of the subject – in this case the thesis of the play. What is so wonderful here though is listening to how a director and actors turn theory into practice, through the asking of questions and by mining their own personal stories.
We can quite literally feel life being blown into the characters on the page. The actors become the guardians of the people they play and no matter how crude, violent or messed up the character may be, they have to get under their skin and treat them kindly.
Today we hear from Phillip Breen, who took on the role of the ‘parent’ during the rehearsal process to enable his ‘sons’ to fully thrash out their demons and make good use of them. It's a very personal insight into a private process, that reveals a great deal about the value of remembering the past in order to understand the present and no matter how far you run, family will always catch up with you.
I hope you enjoy it.
Today we publish an interview with the director of True West, Phillip Breen.