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Memory play had some unforgettable moments

PUBLISHED: 14:55 04 November 2009 | UPDATED: 17:18 16 August 2010

THE theory of homeopathy - that water is capable of retaining a memory of dissolved substances - provided the basis for a play recently performed at the Erith Playhouse, writes Mark Campbell.

THE theory of homeopathy - that water is capable of retaining a 'memory' of dissolved substances - provided the basis for a play recently performed at the Erith Playhouse, writes Mark Campbell.

The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson (whose name someone forgot to put in the programme) sees three daughters reflecting on the death of their mother, Vi.

Each remembers her in a different way, often contradictory.

The central theme of the play is that entropy increases.

Vi's house is perched atop a crumbling cliff on the south coast. A child falls to his death from an eroding coastal path. Memories lie. Water is everywhere.

The youngest daughter Catherine (Sara Nichols) is a self-styled hippy who takes recreational drugs as most of us would drink coffee.

Mary (Rachel De Silva), the middle sister, is a successful, independently minded doctor whose affair with married man Mike (Peter Vale) is floundering on the rocks.

The eldest, Teresa (Helen Bezer), is a repressed control freak who uses her put-upon husband Frank (John McLaren) as a verbal punch-bag.

Like Elvira from Blithe Spirit, Jo Lovell popped up occasionally as the ghost of Vi to continue old arguments with Mary.

Drenched in an aquatic green-blue light, and accompanied by the fitful sparking of a bedside lamp, she brought a spooky edge to proceedings.

Rachel De Silva as Mary was the most obviously headstrong of the three sisters. I would have liked to have seen a little less stroppiness and a little more sympathy in her performance, but then this was presumably how the character was written.

Helen Bezer gave one of her best performances to date as the uptight holier-than-thou elder sister Teresa.

Judgmental to a fault, her repressive upbringing was displayed in every body movement.

Sara Nichols seemed the wrong age to play the youngest sister, but her delightfully skittish performance soon overcame that hurdle.

The play could have worked perfectly well without any menfolk, so the inclusion of Mike and Frank sometimes seemed a little forced.

That said, Peter Vale was believably deadpan as the husband caught between two women, although John McLaren's constant over-acting needed toning down in order to fit in with the realistic approach of the other actors.

Directed by Jenny McKiernan, with atmospheric lighting by Andy Wooliscroft, this was an appropriately memorable production.

l The next show at the Erith Playhouse will be Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen from 9-14 November. Tickets: 01322 350345.

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