Theatre review: Memory of Water, Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough

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If Chekov had not got there first – Shelagh Stephenson’s play could easily have been named The Three Sisters.

Mary, Teresa and Catherine are reunited on the eve of their mother Vi’s funeral – a diverse set of women it is easy to find in any family with female siblings – I know I’m one of three.

Memory of Water

Memory of Water

The oldest Teresa is burdened with responsibility and a dull personality, middle sister Mary is the clever one – now a successful doctor – and the youngest Catherine is flightly, lonely, likes more than the occasional spliff and unsuitable lovers.

From the start we’re on tetchy ground and the tension is racked up as the men in these women’s lives appear – or not. Skeletons clatter out of cupboards, childhood experiences are mis-remembered, old wounds are lacerated, and drunken truths tumble out into an atmosphere sliceable with a knife. Recriminations, regrets, sacrifice, loss and accusations ebb and flow like the sea outside the family home.

I revelled in every second of the sisterly spats – because underneath there is a layer of love and empathy.

The play is beautifully acted by Caroline Langrishe as Mary, Mary-Jo Randle as Teresa and Amanda Ryan as Catherine – plus Lynn Farleigh as the ghost of their mum, whose last months were blighted with Alzheimer’s.

Randle’s drunken outburst is worth the ticket money alone and the exchanges between Langrishe and Farleigh are touching.

No performance falls into cliche – these women are three dimensional and all likeable and recognisable.

The men – Steven Pinder as Teresa’s nice but dim husband and Paul Opacic (lovely diet coke moment girls) as Mary’s married lover are no slouches either.

Touching and funny, beautifully played, this is theatre at its most compelling.

Memory of Water is at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, until Saturday April 5, performances daily at 7.30pm. Matinees on Saturday March 29 and April 5 at 2.30pm and Thursday April 3 at 1.30pm