Mining the vernacular

The Daughter-in-Law, Crucible, Feb 27-March 23: Philip McGinley and Marlene Sidaway
The Daughter-in-Law, Crucible, Feb 27-March 23: Philip McGinley and Marlene Sidaway

Ian Soutar talks to actor Philip McGinley about getting to grips with the language of DH Lawrence’s The Daughter-in-Law

DURING rehearsals for The Daughter-in-Law Philip McGinley still has the beard we saw him sporting back in November when he was playing a very contemporary role, the slacker Waldorf, in DC Moore’s sexually explicit Straight in the Crucible Studio.

For DH Lawrence’s drama of a mining family in 1912 it has been shaved down to an Edwardian moustache. “You can’t dispute looking at the evidence of photographs of the time everyone had a moustache apart from the young lads,” he says. “It even says so in the stage directions – there’s a long description of all the other characters except for Luther which just says, ‘a collier of medium build and a fair moustache’. That’s all I have to go on and I will stick with the authenticity of that.”

McGinley plays Luther, one of six brothers in a mining family, who is caught between the tensions between his overbearing mother and his new wife and is coming to terms with marriage. “At the age of 30 I have moved out of the family home into a house with my wife who, in the words of my mother, is ‘hoity toity’ and has furnished it in her own way and you meet us getting to grips with each other – not very well.”

The Daughter-in-Law is not often performed but the actor had seen it before. “I had been living in Manchester when I moved to London and I went to see it at the Young Vic because an actor who had been playing all these parts at the Royal Exchange was in it. I really admired him. I suppose I had a kind of student crush on him,” he laughs.

“I can’t say this was a part that I had always wanted to play, which Willy Mossop (in Hobson’s Choice at the Crucible in 2011) definitely was, but when the chance came to do it I went for it. I was here in Sheffield when I saw the posters go up for The Daughter-in-Law and made sure they knew I was interested.

“I think Sheffield is the perfect place to do this play, although perhaps the Nottingham Playhouse might disagree.”

The world of mining is not totally alien to the actor. “Growing up in Golbourne, near Wigan, a lot of my friends’ fathers were from mining families. There were a lot of pits around Leigh and Wigan and I remember going round to friends houses and seeing rows and rows of commemorative plates because their fathers were miners. Mine wasn’t.

“Parkside Colliery at Newton-le-Willows was not far away and you could see the towers. As a child we all went to watch them being blown up. I don’t remember it being a bittersweet moment for me I just remember a big explosion but I imagine for many people of my parents generation it was sad, but all I remember it being a brilliant spectacle.”

One of the challenges for the cast of The Daughter-in-Law is that it written in Nottinghamshire coalfield dialect

“If you look at the play script it’s nigh on impossible to read but once you’ve spoken it and rehearsed it, it goes in very easily,” says McGinley. “People won’t understand every single syllable but they will know what’s going on.

“There are words that aren’t used any more. You’ll know what is being talked about but you won’t know exactly because there are a lot of dialect words, pit vocabulary and idioms that are used and words that have fallen by the wayside. There’s some brilliant stuff like ‘doited’ and ‘wezzle-brained’, or a phrase, ‘come day, go day, God send Sunday,’ which is a description of somebody who is a bit wishy-washy. “It almost sounds modern-day vernacular.”

Before returning to the Crucible last year McGinley was doing the third series of Game of Thrones, the HBO fantasy series filmed in Belfast and Iceland.

“I was planning on going to America to capitalise on that when this came up. The new series is about to start over there so I might still go.

“It was quite something. There’s a new band of bearded and smelly outlaws, although I am the chaplain’s archer so I am slightly more refined. Instead of fighting and rolling around in the mud I was riding around shooting arrows.

“I had to do a lot of archery training and we had this brilliant guy to teach me. I had already been having riding lessons because I lost a previous job through having a lack of riding experience and it has certainly paid off.”