The Memory of Water - Review

Good comedy in English!

The Memory of Water
By Shelagh Stephenson

Directors: Pauliina Munukka and Anna Rawlings
Producer: Joan Nordlund

Cast: Christopher Sloan, Zoë Chandler, Giorgia Ghizzoni, Stina Halmetoja, David Rogers

Andorra, Eerikinkatu 11, Helsinki
Première 5 May 2014
Running until 11 May

The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stevenson belongs to a rather common genre of comedy, namely that underlying the jokes is extreme gravity. Truths often come out from the verbal mudslinging, skeletons emerge from the cupboard along with laughter and tears, but in the end the talk is about understanding and reconciliation.

In this sense Stephenson's play is nothing special and is not among the heavyweights in the field. What gives it some originality is that it centres on three sisters, sisters who are as far removed from Chekov's wistful and melancholy characters as you can get. The three, Mary (Zoë Chandler), Catherine (Giorgia Ghizzoni) and Teresa (Stina Halmetoja) have, apart from their biological connections, little in common, not even the same childhood recollections, so it seems, and are now brought together by circumstances that are both natural and distressing. Their mother has died. The funeral has to be arranged. The sisters assemble and the drama begins.

In turn, Mary's married boyfriend Mike (Christopher Sloan) and Teresa's husband Frank (David Rogers) enter the fray: time for more inter-relationship conflicts. A somewhat original twist is that even the recently deceased mother makes an appearance in a couple of scenes with Mary. This is a trick that one hasn't seen since the days of Noel Coward's jolly comedies. Another streak of originality is the fact that people (especially Teresa) drink copious amounts, smoke (all three sisters), and – almost – have sex (Mary and Mike). The young and the sensitive be warned!

All in all, The Memory of Water provides a couple of hours of good entertainment and generally excellent acting. The co-directors Pauliina Munukka and Anna Rawlings, with their talented cast make the most of what the play has to offer. After a slightly hesitant start (it was the première) the action moved competently to embrace the comic and the tragic. There were laughter real tears in the final moments. Wonderful! I was more than a little impressed.

Then there is naturally also the achievement of making the best use of the shallow Andorra stage, a former cinema. Well done!

I have said before how impressed I am that The Finn-Brit Players can put on amateur performances of such high quality. What I mean by this is that theatre performances in English should be a respected and accepted element of the theatrical scene in Helsinki. But people need to know about the group! Go forth and advertise – in schools and educational associations. Everywhere! You can't just rely on Facebook friends. You deserve a wider public!

Original review Ulf Persson for Recensenterna.
Translated from Swedish by Joan and Henrik Nordlund