November 2003 – The Memory of Water

Play Name
The Memory of Water
Shelagh Stephenson
Performance Start Date
Tuesday 25 November 2003
Performance End Date
Saturday 29 November 2003
Harrogate Studio Theatre
Ian Rattee
  • Vi ............. Sheila McIntosh
  • Mary ......... Stella Chatterton
  • Theresa ..... Vicki Day
  • Catherine ... Katy Hutchinson
  • Mike .......... Steve Hadi
  • Frank ........ Gavin Smith

The Harrogate Advertiser, Nov 28th 2003 The chance to see a brilliant modern play at a modest price is the payoff for audiences when Harrogate Dramatic Society depart from the traditional repertoire and this production is a prime example. Tackling contemporary drama offers the Society’s actors and directors fresh challenges and The Memory of Water, sensitively directed by Ian Rattee shows them to be in tune with the ebb and flow of emotions rippling through Shelagh Stephensons’s beautifully crafted script. A bank of mutual hostility against each other and dependence on their respective men connects the three diverse women who find themselves under the same roof as they prepare for the funeral of their mother. There’s Mary (Stella Chatterton), the doctor who is troubled by a patient with amnesia by day and her dead mother by night. Why Vi (Sheila McIntosh) should choose to invade Mary’s dreams is made touchingly clear as the play unfolds. The action takes place in what was Vi’s bedroom and whilst her presence remains tangible, the emotional landscape she leaves behind is eroding, changing and reshaping itself in the people who remain. A poetic parallel in the coastal location of the house implies the natural landscape will be the final keeper of memories associated with this family. There is no hint of sentimentality or apparent grief for their dead mother to unite Mary and Theresa (Vicki Day). Their bickering is comical. Mary’s sarcastic retorts are wittily apt whilst Theresa’s increasingly stress laden accounts surrounding the practicalities of death, her cue to unleash a torrent of resentment. Feelings turn on a hair’s breadth and the emotional barometer veers in a different direction with the arrival of the third sister Catherine (Kay Hutcheson). All three actors make a strong impression in their roles and all face up to painful truths by the end of the play. Katy Hutcheson delivers the live wire of the three with style and presence. Stephenson has give the brat of the family some excellent lines – “Just because you’re broke, it doesn’t mean you can’t buy things,” being one that makes this sensation seeker curiously likeable, despite her outrageous behaviour. The same is true of Theresa, thanks to Vicki Day’s impressive interpretation of a controlling woman, gradually unravelling through a variety of drugs and homeopathic remedies. The true nature of the mother and daughter relationship concerning Mary is not known until later in the play by their dream-like encounters played out to Nat King Cole’s velvet tones indicate a void existed between them. Sheila McIntosh as Vi is particularly memorable when she later recounts how Alzheimer’s disease might be perceived from the sufferer’s point of view. Possibly the most joyous scene in the play comes at the end of the first act when all three siblings clear out their mother’s wardrobe. Facets of this woman’s personality are tried on for size and paraded around to their mutual amusement. Like much of the play, this scene is funny and sad, comforting and heart-rending all at the same time. The men in these women’s lives bring a further dimension to the situation. Steve Hadi as Mary’s part-time lover makes an unconventional entrance and his performance adds a convincing layer of stark reality to the peace. Gavin Smith is also excellent as the feeble Frank whose modest revelations put a question mark over Theresa’s wobbly self image whilst the unseen Xavier succeeds in crushing his target from afar. If any tickets are still available for the remaining performances, grab them Like the idea which gives the play its haunting title, the voices of these essentially lonely hearts remain in the mind long after the performance has concluded. There can be no higher recommendation for a piece of theatre.