by Hannah and Ian Keildson
Isis – Act One Scene Two - The Family
Character and Costume
FATHER enters through the door stage left and, smiling, walks over to behind MOTHER . He puts his arms around her waist and Mother rests her head back against his chest.They stand for a few seconds in an almost affectionate embrace looking at the table. ISIS sits gazing into the mirror.
Then Mother pushes Father away with a " Get out from under my feet" gesture and takes a good look at him. She does the "Sweat of my brow..." gesture and removes his tie, hands him a cork screw from the sideboard and exits irritably through the door stage right. During this section ISIS has taken out all her hair pins and redone her hair.
FATHER takes a bottle of wine from the cupboard in the side board, stage left.
He puts on his glasses, peruses the lable, gestures "Time is money" , gets a price tag from the inside pocket of his jacket and hangs it around the neck of the bottle. He then takes a glass from the sideboard, pours himself some wine and sips it appreciatively as he proceeds to peruse his castle. Moving slowly and pedantically, taking in everything as he goes, he meanders over to the painting hanging at stage right. He admires it, does the "Time is money" gesture and hangs a price tag from its frame. As he does this ISIS takes a necklace of price tags out of the dressing table drawer, holds it up to admire it as if the light were sparkling in it, and puts it round her neck. Father then turns from the painting, gesturing "Better safe than sorry" . Next he saunters over to the cluster of photographs. stage left, takes hold of the photo of Isis and does the "Time is money" ritual over it followed by "Better safe than sorry" . ISIS dons a price tag bracelet. Father goes over to the dining table, picks up his wine glass and is just about to drink it when he sees the birthday cake. He puts the glass down again, does the "Time is money" ritual and hangs a price tag from the birthday cake. Isis hangs two price tag earings from her ears.
During Father's solo, the VIDEO shows an aerial view of congested motor ways, railway lines and electricity pylons scarring the countryside. This moves to houses, factories and office blocks under construction, air ports and power stations pumping fumes. When Isis puts on the price tag earrings the scene settles on a city of skyscrapers twinkling in the sunshine.
LITTLE SISTER returns through the doorframe stage left, now wearing a party frock. She rushes over to Father and cajoles him into playing horsey-horsey with her, him on his hands and knees, her riding on his back. ISIS returns to brushing her hair slowly and rhythmically.
MOTHER enters in the middle of the frolicking brandishing the better choice of tie. Father and Little Sister leap to their feet looking embarassed and guilty. Mother sends Little Sister out to brush her dishevelled hair through the doorframe, stage left. She sees the price tag on the Birthday cake, rips it off and throws it on the floor, clearly furious with Father. Father picks the price tag up, Mother snatches it from him and they enter into a battle of nervous twitches where both are absolutely immovable from their point of view and exaggeratedly fling their gestures at each other. Their movements fit together into a perfectly syncronized dance, Father's pedantic and patronising, Mother's wild and hysterical, as if two halves of a whole have come together even though they are opposed to each other. The arguement climaxes with Mother flinging the tie at Father and then storming out of the room, taking the price tag with her. After she has gone, Father casually drapes the tie around his neck, takes another price tag out of his top jacket pocket and puts it on the birthday cake. He then sits down in the armchair, picks up the newspaper and relaxes with his glass of wine.
ISIS , during the arguement, goes into paroxysms of indecision, taking earrings off, pinning hair up, putting earrings back on, taking hair down again. When Father replaces the price tag on the cake, Isis replaces the price tag earrings and as he sits down, she goes back to gazing into the mirror.
Father suddenly looks up towards the doorframe stage left, as the figure of GRANDMOTHER is seen approaching it. He stands up hurriedly, does up his tie and goes to greet her. She sweeps in. She allows herself to be kissed on the cheek by Father and stands in position 1 (see illustration 1) but with head held high while Father takes the wrapped birthday gift that she hands him and takes it to the sideboard where he places it with the others.
LITTLE SISTER comes running in through the door( stage left), now looking neat and tidy and carrying her gift for Isis. She is excited to see her Grandmother. She abandons her gift on the coffee table and goes to fling her arms around Grandmother, but Grandmother catches hold of her hands, holds her at arms length, turns Little Sister's palms upwards, inspects them, does a "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" gesture over them and sends Little Sister off through the door (stage left) to wash her hands.
Thoughout the dance that follows Grandmother doesn't so much do anything, as exert her presence on her surroundings while Father follows her around sheepishly. She inspects the furnishings, running her finger gracefully over the photograph frames, wipes the dust off with her handkerchief and shakes her head in disapproval. She goes to the dining table, inspects the price tag, nods her approval and then moves the cake to another position.
LITTLE SISTER returns, shows her hands to her Grandmother for approval, and, when she gets it, fetches a Bible from the sideboard and begs her Grandmother to read it with her. Grandmother adjusts the cushions on the sofa, sits down on it and takes the Bible (see illustration 3). Little Sister kneels on the floor to the left of Grandmother with her arm and chin resting on Grandmother's knee, while Father stands behind the sofa, one hand resting on Grandmother's shoulder, looking awkward and dismayed that his daughter is being corrupted by superstitious dogmatism. The lights on the sitting room dim slightly and a gentle golden spotlight illuminates the group poised in a perfect Da Vinci triangle (see illustration 2).
ISIS throughout this scene ceremoniously arranges a black headscarf around her head, creating a whimple. She covers her neck and front with a white lace modesty.
The VIDEO during this section shows scenes of the Vatican with throngs of people filling the square; Muslims prostrate in prayer around the Black Stone; Orange Men marching in Northern Ireland; emaciated Jews queueing for the gas chambers in Auschwitz; and then finally, when Grandmother, Father and Little Sister strike the holy family pose, a bomb explodes in the same city that was showing at the end of the Father's solo. This leads into scenes of religious warfare (Palestine, Bosnia, Kosovo, Ireland).
Suddenly, with a sound like a whip crack, ELDER SISTER shoots through the doorframe (stage left) with long leggy strides. She stalks half way across the room to centre stage front, pulling her leopard behind her. She stops suddenly when she sees the holy group and throws back her head in derisive laughter. The golden spotlight fades and the sitting room lights return to normal. Grandmother haughtily closes the Bible, Elder Sister strikes the "Worship me, I am beautiful" pose and Father approaches her as if to precure a kiss from her. When he gets to within a foot of her she turns her drooped hand palm upwards. Father and Elder Sister glare at each other for a few tense moments and then, without making any calculations or phone calls, he takes some banknotes out of his trouser pocket and places them in her outstretched hand. She puts the money in her shoulder bag. She then lures Father with the "Come on" gesture but as his lips reach her cheek she briskly turns away and, leaving her leopard where it is, walks to the right of the arm chair leaving Father looking off balance and stupid. Grandmother changes her hands to a position of virtuous dismay (see illustration 4) and Father returns to his post behind her chair. He watches Elder Sister furtively as she takes a make-up compact from her shoulder bag, injects her lips with the syringe, adds more lipstick, repositions her pout. She puts the compact away and holds a pose of studied indifference with her head turned away from the others.
Little Sister sneaks over to the leopard and mounts it. Elder Sister walks slowly over to Little Sister as if she hasn't seen her and then suddenly hits her hard across the head, knocking Little Sister off. Little Sister runs to the safety of Grandmother's knee, crying and appealing for justice from her father who tentatively goes to Elder Sister and, placing his hand on her shoulder, lamely coaxes her to apologise to Little Sister and greet her Grandmother. Elder Sister does "Touch me not" to her father, brushing his hand away as if it were contaminated. She approaches the sofa, pushes Little Sister aside with her foot, gives her Grandmother a cold peck on the cheek and then rudely turns her back on her. She struts over to the sideboard with her leopard in tow, pours herself a glass of wine and then leans nonchalantly against the sideboard staring defiantly at her father across the room. In dismay Father makes calculations, checks watch, makes a phone call, takes a price tag out of his trouser pocket. He takes a few angry steps towards the wine bottle but is interrupted by the meandering entrance of GRANDFATHER through the left hand doorframe. He reluctantly puts the tag back in his pocket and goes to greet him.
During this section, ISIS applies face cream, hair-spray, perfume and blood red lipstick. When Elder Sister leans against the drinks cabinet at the end of this sequence, Isis goes back to gazing into the mirror. The VIDEO shows vast expanses of frozen tundra, endless stretches of grass land scorched black by fire and then, by the end of this section, miles of arid desert.
GRANDFATHER salutes Father with a beaming grin and then shakes his hand vigorously, clasping it between both his own. Father takes his hat and hangs it on a hook hanging by the door. Grandfather hands a birthday gift, badly wrapped in cheap paper, to Father who takes it over to the sideboard. As Grandfather approaches the sofa Little Sister breaks away from Grandmother's knee and greets him with a hug. Grandfather holds her away from him so he can admire her dress, then conjures a sweet from behind her ear and gives it to her. Little Sister begins to put it in her mouth but Grandmother holds her hand out for it. Little Sister reluctantly hands over the sweet and Grandmother puts it away in the folds of her clothes. Meanwhile, Grandfather goes over to Elder Sister (who has pointedly ignored these trivial goings-on), winks mischievously to Little Sister as he goes and then produces a coin from behind Elder Sister's ear. She leaps away from him going into a fit of "Touch me not" gestures and strides out of the room through the door (stage right) towing her leopard behind her.
Grandfather and Little Sister laugh and he jigs across the stage to the sofa where Grandmother is sitting poker-straight and tight-lipped with superiority. Grandfather salutes her and then, when she fails to acknowledge his greeting, sweeps her a low bow in mock deference and sits down beside her on the sofa. Little Sister leans over the back of the sofa to watch and Father, now sitting in the arm chair, half watches, half reads the newspaper. Grandfather rolls up his trouser leg and shows Grandmother his arthritic knee. She turns her head haughtily away from him. So Grandfather pulls up his waistcoat and shirt and shows her his billious stomach. She keeps her head turned away. So he nudges her and points to his new hearing aid. She continues to ignore him. He repeatedly nudges her and insists that she look at his ear until she eventually looks, at which moment he whips his head round and gives her a smacking great kiss. Little Sister and Grandfather laugh, Father tries to hide his smile behind the newspaper, but Grandmother flaps up from the sofa, the layers of her clothes fluttering like ruffled feathers and flounces off towards the door (stage right) as if to leave. Father rushes over to console her. Grandfather beckons Little Sister to the front of the stage where they salute each other and set off at a gallop around the room on imaginary horses, fighting imaginary enemies with imaginary swords. They end up dancing a ridiculous jig together which ends with Grandfather doing an obscene farting gesture and they roll around clutching their sides with laughter.
Throughout this scene ISIS puts on a large pair of army boots and a cloth cap over the whimple.The VIDEO picture of the desert fades into footage of Iraq being bombed at night seen through the sight of a bomber plane,the first moon landing and Armstrong planting the American flag; the Russian Mayday arms parade; nuclear explosions at sea (syncronising with the fart).
Order is restored by the appearance of MOTHER through the door stage right carrying bowls of "nibbles" with her. Her presence instantly revives Grandmother who, pulling herself up to her full haughtiness, refuses Mother's offering of peanuts with a "Holier than thou gesture" and guides her graciously over to the dining table to show her the superior positioning of the birthday cake, much to Mother's obvious annoyance. Father pours Grandfather a beer. Grandfather sits on the sofa and downs his beer, then invites Little Sister to sit next to him and shows her his medals, giving exaggerated renditions of the acts of bravery for which he was awarded each one. Father returns to the arm chair.
The left hand door bursts open and ELDER SISTER struts in, minus leopard, glaring over her shoulder at UNCLE who is pursuing her, obviously attempting to fondle her bottom. As his hand makes contact she pushes it violently away. He grabs her arm and swings her backwards. A short tango-cum-wrestling match follows ending up with Elder Sister slapping Uncle across the face. He doesn't even flinch but simply puts his hands in his trouser pockets and shrugs in a "You win some, you lose some" kind of way, grinning at the gasping onlookers. Elder Sister smugly saunters over to the right side of the stage, draws her syringe from her shoulder bag and injects her breasts and bottom.
ISIS , during Uncle and Elder Sister's duo, takes a blood red garter from the dressing table drawer and, with one foot resting on the stool, slides it slowly up her leg. The VIDEO shows scenes of child prostitutes soliciting curb crawlers, AIDS victims in Africa, drug addicts, rape.
Uncle proceeds to ingratiate himself with the rest of the family, smoothing over the shock waves by producing a bottle of vintage wine for Father, handing a wrapped birthday present to Little Sister for her to put on the sideboard with the others, gallantly kissing Grandmother's hand, giving Grandfather a comradly slap on the back and whispering a dirty joke in his ear, and twirling Mother round the front of the stage in a playful waltz. He executes these movements with flawless grace, gliding from character to character, weaving them together into a harmonious group with his mesmeric charm. He finishes the waltz by looking around gesturing "Where's Isis". Everyone turns towards the door at the back of the sitting room that leads to Isis's pyramid.
ISIS has now drawn the silver curtain over the video screen in the dressing table mirror and is standing in front of it, turning this way and that, looking at herself in her final outfit. This now consists of a white slip, price tag earrings and bracelet, a lace modesty, a black whimple with a cloth cap on top of it, black stockings, lipstick, army boots and a red garter.
Little Sister, with her finger to her lips, pulls Uncle by the sleeve over to the doorway leading to the pyramid and the others follow. When they reach the door, Little Sister gives out party poppers, tooters and streamers and leads the way up the stairs. The family arrange themselves at various heights and angles around the pyramid steps and then, on Uncle's signal, they burst in on Isis's revery blowing tooters, releasing streamers, patting her on the back, scolding, teasing or despairing of her outfit. Mother pulls off the cloth cap. All the family members do an "I give up on her " gesture simultaneously. Isis, looking embarassed and shy, is escorted down into the sitting room. They fuss over her while Little Sister fetches the presents and hands them out and Father takes a bottle of champagne out of the cabinet, pops the cork and pours drinks for everyone. He proposes a toast and they all drink to Isis.