Lynne Brighouse reviews The Memory of Water staged by Fourblokes Theatre Company
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 1990s the play is entirely set in the bedroom of the newly deceased mother of three Vi, (ably played by Hilary Lean) 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.
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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 Lean 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 fading memory. Even the family home, situated on eroding cliffs, will in the end decay and return to the sea.
The Memory of Water continues at The Guildhall until tomorrow Saturday, Nov 17. Tickets are priced £12 and can be purchased on 01332 255800 or online from www.derbylive.co.uk.