The Memory of Water - Chapel off Chapel till Sunday 26th November
by Connie Lambeth
The tussles, drama and follies of life are brilliantly woven into the plot of ‘The Memory of Water’ by Shelagh Stephenson, playing till 26th November at Prahran’s Chapel off Chapel theatre.
This pacy, award-winning UK play centres around three sisters preparing for the funeral of their mother Vi. Within the tight confines of Vi’s bedroom, the escalating conflict of the estranged siblings plays out in this well-scripted family ‘drama’ laced with comedy and metaphors. The single room stage setting ensures audience attention is focused on the characters within. Thrust together at the death of their mother, old grievances give way to protracted disagreements and emotional outbursts, in a seemingly persistent verbal contest. With ‘memory’ as the play’s key theme, childhood recollections bubble to the surface, revealing each sister as having her own take on events, adding to the fray.
The sisters are vastly different as siblings often are. Mary is the ‘middle child’ a doctor…the clever, self righteous and overbearing one. Her frailties are revealed when we learn of her affair with Mike, a married man unwilling to leave his ill wife, a teen pregnancy kept secret all this time, and the desire to have her own child now she’s thirty nine. An interesting twist is the presence of her deceased mother as an apparition. It seems no matter how hard Mary denies she has some of her mother’s traits, they are ever present, in a gesture, an expression, a word. Vi’s memory lives on.
The martyr attitude of eldest sister Theresa is destined to annoy sisters and audience alike. Her natural therapy business is an important element, with homeopathy pushing memory to the fore once again, as no matter how diluted with water, the healing powers remain, much like the essence of the mother who lives on in her daughters. Theresa’s weaknesses too are fleshed out, as tensions rise and she hits the whisky bottle as a non-drinker, much to her husband Frank’s angst.
Meanwhile Catherine the youngest, provides comic relief with her attention-seeking personality needy of love wherever she can find it. 78 lovers and still counting it seems, as she smothers her woes with alcohol and joints, grieving more about her Spanish boyfriend dumping her than the loss of her mother! When conflict between the elder two sisters intensifies, there is an almost collective sigh of relief when Catherine stumbles in with quirky quips, an oversharing personality, and later, inappropriate funereal clothes, perhaps designed to relax the tension on stage and in the audience. It worked.
The support roles of Mike as Mary’s lover, and Frank, Theresa’s tolerant spouse, add a steadying influence amid the disputes of the women. The men also manage to successfully bring the outdoors inside, with clothing, hand rubs and references to freezing conditions. Perhaps playwright Stephenson crafted this concept as another metaphor to reflect the icy weather on the outer, and frosty relations on the inner, or maybe to tell us the setting is winter in the north of England. Either way, the cold was a prominent feature and the audience felt it, helped along with the aircon!
The cast put up an impressively strong performance, demonstrating the tapestry of emotions on display when ordinary people are faced with a situation beyond their everyday realm. Meanwhile the cello added an ethereal quality, contributing to the mood and pathos of the story.
Producer Darren Mort has the last word when he says:
“Please enjoy our production of ‘The Memory of Water’ - you will laugh and cry all at once, but most of all, you will understand the importance of relationships and the art of forgiveness”.
**The Memory of Water is playing at Chapel off Chapel in Prahran until next Sunday 26th November Genre: Comedy/High Recommend
**3 Big Men Productions in association with The Rehearsal Room
Connie Lambeth - The Australia Times News
Editor GOURMET - Food/Wine/Events
Follow us on Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/tatgourmetmag
**previously published: www.theaustraliatimes.com/news
Hi I'm Connie - Editor