Photos Reviews

The Memory of Water

March 2019

This Olivier Best Comedy Award-winning play was first performed in 1996 and takes the audience to the slightly dilapidated bedroom of a house on the chilly North East coast of England, where they meet three sisters, Mary, Teresa and Catherine who have gathered for
the funeral of their mother Vi. Teresa's husband Frank and Mary's married lover Mike, join them there; so does Vi herself, appearing and interacting with Mary during the course of the Play.

This is a thought-provoking Play about family, memories, life and loss. The storytelling and characterisation is rich and full of humour and should therefore provide a rewarding and entertaining experience for the audience who it is hoped will be tempted to come and see something a little different this time.

The Memory of Water, directed by Clare Philbrock, will be performed at Matthews Hall from 26-29 March 2019.

photographs by Clare Philbrock


Mary - Kate Wannell

Vi - Chris Eilbeck

Teresa - Helen Rushton

Catherine - Becky Davies

Mike - Ian Potts

Frank - Howard Eilbeck

Production Team:

Director - Clare Philbrock

Asst Director - Keith Palmer

Production Manager - Maggie Butt

Design, Set and Publicity - Phil Keen

Props and Furniture - Janine Warre

Costumes - Clare Philbrock & Janine Warre

Lighting Designer - Peter Tapp

Lighting and Sound Operator - Alan Caig

Special Constructions - Maurice Webb

Photography - Clare Philbrock & Angela Wallwork

Front of House team led by - Clare Philbrock


From A review of The Memory of Water by Pat Peters:

This was our first visit to watch the Estuary Players perform and it won't be the last!

This was our first visit to watch the Estuary Players perform and it won't be the last! The Memory of Water wasn't a play we were familiar with which is surprising as it was first performed in 1996. This was Shelagh Stephenson's first stage play. The action takes place over a twenty-four-hour period during which the audience is invited to watch as three sisters gather together for their mother, Vi's, funeral. They are joined later by Mary's boyfriend and Teresa's husband. Although the play is some twenty-three years old it still feels very fresh and modern. On Friday evening we were treated to a well written play and an excellent production. As fellow theatre goers will know only too well - the former doesn't always guarantee the latter.

The programme notes were helpful and gave just enough information to set the scene without giving too much away. The curtains were open on arrival giving us an opportunity to have a 'nose' around Vi's bedroom before the play commenced. I had a surprise when I suddenly noticed there was a body already on stage in the bed! The actor in the bed didn't move a muscle and I wondered if it might be the deceased but once the play got underway all became clear. Well done Kate for remaining so very still for all that time. I was impressed by the set which was well constructed, furnished and dressed to effectively create Vi's rather dated bedroom - particularly impressive as the Players do not have the luxury of their own premises.

What a great idea to have 'the undertaker' - complete with artificial hand (a character referred to but not seen in the play) greet us all and give the 'notices'. Also, to have the undertaker and his assistant carry the coffin on whilst the lights were dimmed before Act Two Scene Three.

I loved the choice of Nat King Cole's 'Unforgettable' as the opening music - it was a perfect choice and immediately created the right atmosphere.

The play was well cast - not always achievable in amateur theatre but it certainly enhances the audience's enjoyment of the play when the actors look and sound convincing as the characters they are playing. From the outset we knew we were in safe, experienced, hands and were in for a good evening. Every member of the cast played their parts well and were entirely believable. I didn't see anyone drop out of character for a second. Kate, Helen and Becky had the most work to do and gave particularly fine performances as the three, very different, sisters. This was a proper drama with the humour arising out of the absurdity of the situation and personalities of the characters - it was perfectly pitched and played for real rather than for laughs which made it all the funnier. It flowed beautifully from the comic to the tragic and back again with none of the awkward moments you sometimes get when an audience don't realise in time that the mood has changed.

There were so many wonderful moments in the production - including:

- The 'girls' slowly getting slightly stoned and trying on their mother's clothes whilst supposedly sorting them out. It was hilarious - and technically very skilled.

- The reactions of the other four characters when Catherine was delivering her wonderful monologue in Act two Scene two - a joy to watch - each one entirely in character.

- Teresa's gradual decline into complete intoxication - very well executed, avoiding the temptation to overplay it and making it very believable.

- The tussle for the tin between Teresa and Catherine - another lovely example where they were able to take us seamlessly from comedy to tragedy.

The costumes were all perfect and the sprinkling of snow on the men when they arrived was very effective. I thought the ending of the play with Vi appearing at the French windows face to face with Mary worked very well and was better artistically (and was certainly more practical) than the ending as scripted with the curtains billowing into the room with a flurry of snow drifting in! The strains of Nat King Cole brought the evening to a close and by this time the audience were aware of the significance of his music to the characters. The choice of a well written play is a good starting point but it takes a talented team of director, actors and crew to turn it into something special. Thank you, Estuary Players, for an excellent production and a very enjoyable evening. We'll be back!

- Reviewed by: Pat Peters


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