THE MEMORY OF WATER
NOMINATED FOR: NODA Best Regional Drama 2012
As the conflicts of the past converge, lies and tensions reveal the long buried conflicts and strains of this family's relationships. The combination of quarrels over the funeral arrangements, well-worn family roles, their unsatisfactory men and mixed memories of a highly feminine working-class mother are hilarious.
Cast and Creative Team
Vi | Hilary Leam
Mary | Sheridan Halton
Teresa | Marie Stone
Catherine | Laura Fovargue
Mike | Stephen Lee-Rees
Frank | Mik Horvath
Director | Barry Taylor
Set Designer / Builder | Terry Stevenson
Set Artist | Sue Stevenson
Costume Designer | Kirsty Brammer
Lighting Designer | Stephen Greatorex
Sound Designer | iBAT Sounds
Production Graphics | Marie Stone
Stage Manager | Phil Simcox
Deputy Stage Manager | Heath Parkin
Assistant Stage Manager | Lucy Heath
Props Manager | Mik Horvath
Photography | Kevin Lane & Marie Stone
Playwright | Shelagh Stephenson
"...funny, sad, thought provoking, enlightening ... wonderful performances..."
The play is set in a cliff-side home cracking apart from subsidence, which the set and lighting very effectively depict. Three sisters have come together for the funeral of their mother and the whole play takes place in her bedroom. The sisters are totally different in outlook and character and it isn’t long before resentment and discrepancies about past memories cause friction and upset between them. Teresa, the eldest, is embittered about the fact that her sisters left her to care for their mother. Marie Stone was excellent in this role, her portrayal of the various emotions was superb and when she ‘hits the bottle’ her druncken revelations are delivered with such supreme control that you really feel that she is actually inebriated – not an easy ‘condition’ to deliver, convincingly. Mary, the middle sister, supposedly the most successful, being a doctor, appeared to be more concerned with one of her patients than with what was going on around her. Sheridan Halton gave a powerful performance conveying an outer control over inner turmoil and the scenes with her ghostly mother, sensitively played by Hilary Leam, were sublime. The youngest sister, Catherine, a pot smoking, hypochondriac, shopaholic, given to frenetic outpourings or sobbing bouts of hurt was strikingly characterised by Laura Fovargue. The interaction between the three sisters worked very well and the sequence where they dress-up in their mother’s clothes was hilariously staged. Mik Horvath was impressive as Frank, Teresa’s husband, handling the role with great skill, and Stephen Lee Rees gave a strong performance as Mike, Mary’s married lover.
The play was funny, sad, thought provoking and enlightening. Congratulations to Barry Taylor for his excellent direction, to his cast for their wonderful performances and to all involved.
Fourblokes Theatre Company have developed a niche for staging edgy, reflective plays which stimulate as well as entertain their audiences. And this haunting production of Shelagh Stephenson’s darkly humorous play, The Memory of Water, was no exception.
Written in the 1990’s the play is entirely set in the bedroom of the newly deceased mother od three Vi, (ably played by Hilary Leam) who has passed away after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Her daughters Mary, teresa and Catherine gather for the funeral and immediately old family feuds kick in, leaving the sisters at loggerheads with each other.
They also dispute the reliability of each other’s memories about their shared past.
“You left me on the beach,” whines the youngest, Catherine. “It was me who was left on the beach,” chips in Mary, who we discover, has the darkest ghosts of all from her past, even though she was the favoured child.
Themes such as the efficacy of alternative medicine and the dysfunctional nature of family life are explored to good effect.
But the central theme is the unreliability and impermanence of memory which always provides us with a subjective version of events, and one that is inherently unreliable.
The epitome of this human failing is Vi, who periodically enters the stage as a ghostly vision.
Hilary Leam plays this part with quiet dignity, reminding us of what it is to be a parent – always blamed by her offspring, who can only see the wider picture by looking back from a different viewpoint. Hilary also delivers some incredibly poignant and illuminating lines about the experience of Alzheimer’s, in which she describes her brain and herself breaking into small islands with nothing to connect them up.
The casting was done with care and Marie Stone gave a very convincing portrayal of Teresa, Vi’s hard-pressed, hard done-to, eldest daughter.
The impermanence of the set, which was infused with half-remembered melodies and flickering images, was an inspired device to reflect the theme of the fading memory. Even the family home, situated on eroding cliffs, will in the end decay and return to the sea.
Lynne Brighouse | Thurs 15th November 2012