Oldham Coliseum’s production of The Memory of Water tells the story of three sisters who find themselves back at their childhood home following the death of their mother. The night before the funeral sees the sisters reliving happy times but also sees some deeply buried memories brought to the surface, much to the pain and suffering of each sister.
The action all takes place in the dead mother’s bedroom where it becomes apparent that the sisters all have very different personalities. Teresa (Eva Pope) is very much the home bird and the sister that looked after the mother, Vi (Emma Gregory) until her death. Feeling the weight of responsibility, she feels somewhat hard done to that she has remained in some way responsible for her mother while her sisters have been able to go off and lead their own lives. Her husband Frank (Tim Treslove) is often away working and Teresa is lonely.
Meanwhile, Mary (Maeve Larkin) is the successful doctor; a dedicated professional woman who has a good career but a poor personal life. Although she is very much in love with Mike (Paul Barnhill), he is married with children and reluctant to leave his ill wife. Catherine (Catherine Kinsella) is the baby of the family. Somewhat wild and carefree with a mysterious Spanish boyfriend, Catherine seeks happiness and solace in drugs and alcohol and is somewhat neurotic. Together they make a fiery threesome who flit between fighting and reminiscing with ease.
Mary is visited by the ghost of her mother who helps her make sense of her life and after a revelation that shocks her boyfriend and drags up unpleasant memories for her and her sister Teresa, Mary feels more confident about who she is and what she wants from her life.
Set against the backdrop of a funeral, this piece has the potential to be somewhat muted and melancholy, however there are many occasions where gallows humour is used to great effect and some heart warming, genuinely amusing scenes. Pope, Kinsella and Larkin work very well together and create a genuine feeling of sisterhood from trying on their mother’s clothes to closing ranks against the men when necessary.
Well performed, this piece is funny, touching, realistic and proof that an everyday setting can make for good quality theatre. A good evening’s entertainment that demonstrates Shelagh Stephenson’s writing skills well.