Volume 3 Number 7
Actors Talk Turkey
01 July 1990

`We decided to tell each other about everything we'd done in our lives we'd been ashamed of,' says Philip. `It was not an easy process but a liberating one.'
When British actor Philip Tyndale Biscoe proposed to Swedish actress Vendela Lofgren, they decided from the start that they would talk turkey to each other because, they say, `honesty is a necessary foundation for marriage'.

`We decided to tell each other about everything we'd done in our lives we'd been ashamed of,' says Philip. `It was not an easy process but a liberating one.' `My reaction at the time,' says Vendela, `was, "Oh God, is this the man I'm going to marry?" But then I realized how much I loved him because he'd told me things in confidence - an act of love in itself. And I told him things in confidence too, such as my earlier relationships with men.' From then on they resolved `never to let the sun go down on our anger'.

`We don't have children or a lot of money,' says Vendela, `and yet we have a very happy marriage. We're good friends.'

They first met at Moral Re-Armament's centre in Switzerland, where they were cast as young lovers in a play on families called Through the Garden Wall. Now they themselves have written a play called, appropriately enough, Let's Talk Turkey. The play is not autobiographical, they say, so much as `observational'. For the past 15 months they have been touring Britain with it and this month will perform it at the Brighton Family Congress.

Staged by one of Sweden's top drama directors Andris Blekte, Lets Talk Turkey is no grim War-of-the-Roses, Cat-on-a-hot-tinroof stuff. It's a slapstick comedy set over three consecutive Christmases, portraying a marriage grown cold as the Christmas turkey. While divorce and family break-up is no funny business, says Philip, `an awful lot of quarrels originate in events worthy of comedy.'

`I act a silly character,' says Vendela, `and find this painful. I have to forgive her and love her as another person, and when I do that the audience does too. They laugh at the character, recognize themselves - and also feel forgiven. It is amazing how many people have come up to us afterwards and asked if we've had a tape recorder in their living room!'

But aren't there some circumstances when honesty might be so painful that it makes a relationship disintegrate? `Only God can tell that,' replies Philip. `I can't imagine him directing one to hide something.' He adds that it is important for honesty to be born out of love for the other person. `"The truth shall set you free" is what our play is all about. It may be painful but isn't the truth what we are all striving for?'

He admits that he has come to some truths about himself - or `adjustments' as he puts it with British understatement - as a result of marrying Vendela. `She doesn't automatically think the same thing as I do, which was rather an extraordinary revelation! I need to listen not only to what is said but also what is not said.'

`When we are confused or unsure about a decision,' says Vendela, `we have a time of quiet to seek God's wisdom - and then we are always more united, even when we don't get the perfect answer. And that unity is more important than the decision.'

They are touched by the effect the play has had on others. One couple who saw it in Bristol said they were going away to review their marriage. A 20-year-old woman told them how she had rejected the idea of marriage but, `having seen how good it can be', had changed her mind. A young Swede observed that couples who care for other people also need each other more.
`I blushed at that,' says Vendela. 'I knew I needed God. But I realised how much I also need Philip.'

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