The Arts Club Theatre Company

The Memory of Water

By Shelagh Stephenson

Director: Bill Millerd Set design: Pam Johnson Lighting design: Marsha Sibthorpe Costume design: Nancy Tait Stage Manager: John James Hong

Venue: The Stanley Theatre Dates: 6 March - 6 April 2003

Reviewer: Jane Penistan

Shelagh Stephenson's view of family life in Northern England in 1998 is hilariously witty and irreverent. It is also a revealing an in-depth study of family relationships. Each of the characters in the play is well defined and developed, and their interactions abrasive and inflammatory.

The death of their mother brings together for the funeral three adult sisters returning to their shabby childhood house, and evokes their juvenile, adolescent memories. Their diverse, real and imagined grievances are brought to light as the three sisters, now in differing circumstances, sort out their mother's belongings. Each article raises a particular reminiscence. Modeling maternal clothing gives rise to huge amusement, but the contents of a box of letters and papers raises poignant memories and revelations.


Bill Millerd has directed this production with an unerring hand, to which his cast bears witness. The clear definition of personality and development of character are fully realized. The interplay of the siblings and the men in their lives sparkles with telling dialogue tossed back and forth with rapidity. But there are also quiet moments where the pace slows to allow breath to be caught and more rational thinking to prevail.

Vi, the mother, is presented in memory and flashback by Linda Sorensen as the life-loving parent who, under her frivolity, tries to do her best for her children. As Mary, Megan Leitch is the intellectual member of the family of whom the other sisters are jealous, and who has her own dark secrets always preying on her mind. Teresa is the middle daughter who marries for security, but who stays at home and looks after her aging mother until her death. Played by the incomparable Gabrielle Rose, she feels martyred by her family. Leslie Jones is Catherine, the youngest of the family. She is obsessed by health care products, organic food, and fear of illness. She is also still an adolescent indulging in outrageous fashion and fits of hysterics.

The two men-- Mike, Michael Ryan, and Frank, Kevin Williamson,-- are philosophical about their roles as lover and husband, but both want more from their relationships with this dysfunctional family. All the cast play together well and their performances have an integrity which brings credibility to the presentation of this highly entertaining play.

Pam Johnson's wallpapered bedroom furnished with 1930's suburban furniture could not have been better suited to the text. Great attention has been paid to the details of clothes and properties, both in the earlier dresses and accessories of the mother, and in the modern up to the minute teenage extravagances of Catherine.

So far this is the best production of this current season of The Arts Club Theatre Company. Congratulations to Bill Millerd and his cast and crew for their splendid production of this excellent play.

2003, Jane Penistan


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