The Memory of Water has the power to make you both laugh and cry, two emotions that are, in grief, closely tied. Focussing on the relationships between three sisters who are reunited in the wake of their mothers death, Alice Hamilton’s production profoundly portrays the complexities of loss, love and sisterhood.
Set entirely in their mothers 1960’s style bedroom, sisters Mary and Teresa played by Laura Rogers and Lucy Black, immediately establish an identifiable sister relationship. Rapidly changing the subject, interjecting with jokes and bickering – unlike a friendship, they capture the sense of being on the same wavelength as sisters so often are. Catherine (Carolina Main) bursts in, instantly forming a real sense of character and comedy. The audience acts as a fly on the wall, watching their relationships unfold in this one room. Each sister has different memories, different reactions in grief, different relationships with their mother and each other, a different fashion sense, taste in men, job and life; yet they relate and you connect with them all at some point in the play.
As the title suggests, memory is integral to Shelagh Stephenson’s play. Memory loss in particular captures the most heart-breaking moments in the production, with Mary’s obsession with one of her patients suffering with amnesia, to Vi’s final speech about the feeling of living with dementia described as “holes in my brain” is certainly captivating. Lizzy McInnerny’s portrayal of Vi is charmingly haunting: exuding glamour and a dark humour.
It is clear Hamilton’s production is directed with a focus on the language and she uses this to drive the action of the play, she chooses not to over complicate the story with concept. I enjoy the femininity of the production, a female director, female playwright, predominately female cast and a play centring on female characters and relationships. The costume is a particular ode to femininity as the wardrobes are bursting with Vi’s fancy frocks, shown off in a heart-warming moment where the sisters dress up as though they are little girls playing in their mums wardrobe.
Although the setting is bleak, the play isn’t without comedy. In the final moments of the play a slapstick routine where Kulvinder Ghir as Frank and Adam James as Mike carry Vi’s coffin captures, in an image, the plays ability to be both deeply sad yet comical.
The Memory of Water is on at the Hampstead Theatre until October 16th 2021