The Memory of Water

Tue 14th – Sat 18th November 2017


Clare Cavenagh

at 09:07 on 16th Nov 2017



I was worried that The Memory of Water was going to be about homeopathy. And it is, a little bit. But mostly it's about secrets, grief, remembering and mis-remembering, and what it's like to have sisters. The play follows Mary, Teresa and Catherine as they gather in their childhood home to organise the funeral of their mother. With all three of them cooped up together for the first time in ages, old memories, resentments and secrets come bubbling to the surface. The play is harrowing, certainly, it's also very funny.

The set, designed by Anna Curzon Price, is simple and white, and represents a bedroom where the family continually congregate, often half by accident. The set is used effectively, with the bed and the telephone becoming focal points of the action. Props are handled well also, and one in particular manages to hit the right note, falling between being too figurative and too literal - and was very effective.

There were some excellent performances from the small cast. The three sisters, Mary (Iulia Tchilaia), Teresa (Kay Benson) and Catherine (Priya Edwards) were all solid throughout, and each produced some excellent moments, and some great humour. Anna Bullard's performance as their mother, Vi, grew on me. Her initial appearance was something of a shock, as she's a larger-than-life character, looming above the other actors in her high heels, dressed in garish makeup and a jumble of different pieces of costume jewellery. But over the course of the play, as the audience comes to understand her role more fully, we connected with her more and more.

There were many fantastic moments in The Memory of Water - moments of great sadness, but also many times when the audience laughed heartily. But overall there was something very uneven about this production. Although the great moments were certainly there, and in relatively high numbers, there were other moments when the action felt disconnected, even wooden. At some points, I worried about how the play was going to continue. I didn't need to, because it did, and more great moments followed, but these seemed somehow isolated, little peaks surrounded by little troughs. It would have been nice if this performance had a more even texture, grabbing the audience at the beginning and keeping them til the end, rather than captivating them at some moments, leaving them cold at others.

The Memory of Water is interesting and affecting and funny, and the audience featured a larger-than-normal proportion of Real Adults (like, not students) who laughed most heartily of all at many of the jokes. It's close to the bone for anyone who's experienced a family funeral or been through the ordeal of growing up with sisters, but this cutting, truthful quality is ultimately more cathartic, even delightful, than it is really harrowing. Although this play could have been more even, more consistent, it was still an enjoyable evening in the Playroom.


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