Bath Drama’s production of Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson is one of those productions that the company could have thought the whole thing is beset with tragedy, both on stage and in real life. By opening night only one of the original cast of three sisters actually making it to curtain up, but these “back stage goings on” did not reflect on the production I saw last night. It turned out to be a great evening full of tragedy and comedy but for all the right reasons.
The action of The Memory of Water revolves around a funeral. The chief mourners are three sisters with little in common except that they all still live with the unhealthy legacies of their childhood with the mother they’ve come to bury.
Teresa (Nadine Comba) is seemingly content with her second marriage to Frank (Trevor Slack) and their health food business though she is an obsessive over-organizer. Mary (Alexia Jones), is a vaguely discontented successful doctor with an equally successful lover Mike (Nic Proud), who is, alas, married. Catherine (Valerie Izzard), is the youngest and most immature who binges on shopping for inappropriate clothes, go nowhere love affairs, and drugs. There’s also the about to be buried mum Vi (Louise Wallace). This ghostly vision in green is visible and audible only to Mary though her influence and demand to be understood rather than buried and forgotten is driving the oldest and youngest sister as well.
A ghost story? Not really. A tragedy? Yes, in that all daughters and mothers who fail to successfully navigate the troubling shores of love and antagonism also tend to fail in establishing healthy and enduring connections with sisters and lovers. A comedy? Yes again. Laughter is as much a guest at this funeral as grief.
Luckily I don’t have to take into account the late replacement casting of two of the sisters (in Alexia Jones’ case only three days). The production never felt under-rehearsed and characters and relationships where well drawn and believable giving us a humorous insight into the world of sibling rivalry and shared grief.
The set and lighting beautifully reflected the period in which the room would have been decorated, many years before the tragic event. A slight criticism here is the use of music – I felt it could have underscored the scene changes and ghostly moments, helping create the nostalgic nature of the events unfolding.
A superb dedicated cast all round has ensured that this is a play which will reside in my memory for a considerable time to come.
Runs until Saturday and well worth the ticket price!