British writer Shelagh Stephenson’s play collected an Olivier Award for Best Comedy some 25 years ago but don’t expect to come out with your cheeks damp solely from tears of laughter. This production of The Memory of Water packs a solid emotional punch.
Set on the Yorkshire coast in the mid 1990s, the play brings together three sisters for their mothers’ funeral.
Mary (Michala Banas) is a doctor, preoccupied by an amnesiac patient and her relationship with a married man. Teresa (Jo Downing) runs a struggling health supplements business with her husband Frank (currently making his way back from a sales trip to Germany). Catherine (Madeleine Jones) is a serial singleton and shopaholic, semi-engaged to a Spaniard. As sisters, they’re not exactly estranged, but they don’t get on.
Act I is largely taken up by constant bickering and the airing of sisterly grievances. There are joyous explosions, too, as they play drunken dress-ups with mum’s collection of frocks.
Poignancy becomes the keynote of Act II. Mary is...