The Linlithgow Players performed the play “The Memory of Water” in the intimate venue and elegant setting of Baillie Hardie Hall in the Burgh halls Linlithgow before an attentive and responsive audience over three nights.
Written by playwright Shelagh Stephenson in 1996, it is a powerful, poignant and provocative drama about three sisters who are trying to cope with loss, grief and dishonesty within relationships.
The play depicts three disconnected and discontented sisters returning home to be reunited when making arrangements for their mother’s funeral.
The action takes place in their deceased mother’s bedroom on an icy cold snowy day on the eve of the funeral.
The three sisters delivered convincing and nuanced performances, enabling their troubled history and underlying vulnerabilities to emerge.
Each sister had a different interpretation and recollection of their childhood memories, causing disagreements over whose memories of childhood were true.
Regrets, recriminations and revelations of the past surfaced and further fuelled by weed and whisky, thereby reducing inhibitions even further for expressing home truths about each other. The sisters used dark humour to cope with loss and grief over their mother.
One hilarious scene shows the sisters trying on their deceased mothers hats and dresses and the delivery of the line “You look dead like your mother in that”.
The play’s title, “The Memory of Water” can be interpreted as a metaphor for illustrating how water can dilute, wash away but ultimately retain fragments of past memories.
The eldest sister Teresa (Therese Gallacher) had the main caring role for her mother and resented her sisters not being involved through moving away to pursue their own careers.
She runs a homeopathy business with her husband Frank whom she met on a dating site. During a drunken scene she revealed a number of home truths and family secrets during a particularly convincing and powerful performance.
Mary (Liz Drewett) is the middle sister, who is a doctor and in a relationship with a married man, Mike.
She has a secret revealed of having her baby adopted when a teenager, and is haunted by a longing to be reunited with her son.
A devastating revelation of his demise had been withheld from her by the mother and this is reluctantly revealed by Teresa in the final scene. Mary deals with situations through the use of cutting remarks, put downs and humour which were acerbically delivered through consummate comic timing by Liz. e.g. “I don’t know whether to have a Caesar salad or to cut my throat”
Catherine (Suzanne Hogg) plays the youngest sister who gets easily flustered and is very attention seeking which masks a vulnerability and frustration at not forming permanent or lasting relationships.
Her elder sisters regard her as being high maintenance and are readily dismissive of her.
The monologue delivered by Suzanne is impressive in expressing the insecurities, hypochondria and longing for acceptance of Catherine.
The deceased mother Vi (Sue Vizard) makes several appearances as the spectre and ghost of the woman and mother she used to be. Sue delivers a gripping and cathartic outpouring of feelings during a dialogue with Mary, seeking to gain some understanding, approval and closure with her daughter.
Vi, who ultimately died of Alzheimer’s disease portrays losing memory as “being adrift among a series of islands of your own identity”.
Performances by Mike (Alasdair MacIver)) and Frank (Les Fulton) were effective, understated and complemented the high octane energies generated by the sisters.
Their attempts to exert control and restraint ultimately had limited influence over their respective partners.
Mike presents himnself as self effacing and diffident but ultimately selfish in withholding from Mary, who is longing to have a child, the fact that he has had a vasectomy and she could not be possibly pregnant.
Whereas Mike bluntly reveals to Theresa his long held view that the products of their homeopathy business are “we sell total crap” and he would rather be running a pub.
There was a glimmer of reconciliation and some understanding of differences achieved by the sisters at the end of the play as they are about to leave for Vi’s funeral.
The direction and staging was impeccably delivered by Sandra Moar in conjunction with Producer Judy Barker. The atmospheric set was enhanced by the skilful sound and lighting by John Barker. With costumes and publicity organised by Sue Spencer .