THE MEMORY OF WATER
by Shelagh Stephenson.
Coliseum Theatre To 5 June 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 2 & 5 June 2.30pm.
BSL Signed: Thu 3 June.
Runs 2hrs 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0161 624 2829.
Review: Stoon 26 May.
Gentle Ripples rather than a Big Splash.
Premiering in 1996, this scooped an Olivier for Best Comedy in 2000 – today it retains comic pedigree but falls short of pure thoroughbred class.
Three Sisters reunite for their Mother’s funeral, returning to her house beforehand to stay, and clear out a lifetime of her possessions to boot. They trade memories, robustly at times, fuelled by usual doses of sibling rivalry.
Teresa, portrayed in suitably dour Plain Jane fashion by Eva Pope, is the eldest, who single-handedly cared for her mother and feels resentment towards the others. Mary (Maeve Larkin), a doctor by trade, is the professional middle sis who’s had all the privileges – cosmopolitan and sorted on the surface, but internally compromised, whilst bubbly Catherine (Catherine Kinsella) is the rebel who feels ganged up upon by the other two.
The action’s best when the sisters spar. Mary’s an exponent of the acid literal tongue, her superiority often challenged by Teresa, whilst both turn upon Catherine. It’s a static production reliant upon dialogue and hits flat notes when it goes all Girly-talk – breast pumps and colonic irrigation are old hat these days – or spouts lines such as, “Everything I look at makes me want to cry”. Discussion about their absent respective men folk initially interests and Mary’s Mike (Paul Barnhill) is a welcome presence until he disintegrates into a blubber of uncertainty before the interval while Frank (Tim Treslove) is never going to eat quiche.
Performances are fine, but only Catherine and Mike bristle with realistic physicality. There are cute lines that remain inventively funny, plus some spiky barbs and the drug-influenced pre-break dressing up scene is the perfect antidote to anything you’ll suffer in Sex and The City. Act Two abandons the carefree in favour of the earnest and the entertainment quotient diminishes.
Sophie Kahn’s set is austere compared to her wonderful contribution to Travels With My Aunt at the same venue and the sporadic appearance of the ghostly Mother (Emma Gregory) muddies rather than illuminates proceedings. In the end you’re left with a feeling of gentle satisfaction with occasional rewards but ultimately wanting happier memories.
Teresa: Eva Pope.
Mike: Paul Barnhill.
Vi: Emma Gregory.
Catherine: Catherine Kinsella.
Mary: Maeve Larkin.
Frank: Tim Treslove.
Director: Kevin Shaw.
Designer: Sophie Khan.
Lighting: Thomas Weir.
Sound: Lorna Munden.