The Memory of Water explores the complexities and humour of grief
A good many plays have exploited the emotional state of people at funerals over the years, but few so well as Shelagh Stephenson in her West End hit of 1996. Not since David Storey’s rather more earnest In Celebration has the existential crisis brought about by the death of someone close to you been so thoroughly explored.
The play portrays the lives of three daughters of a mother whose strong views on the role of women have influenced each of her three offspring in different ways. From an elder sister who has accepted her mother’s vision of a woman as a bourgeois housewife, to a middle sister who has embraced the emotionally unsatisfying life of a modern professional, and on to a wild and promiscuous younger sibling, each plays out a conflict left to them by their mother’s values.
Surprisingly, though, the piece is primarily comic. ‘It has those kinds of universal themes; loss, relationships, memory, and the kinds of mess that occur in life to prevent things from being the way we want them to be, but it’s also very funny,’ explains director Bill Wright. ‘There’s grieving, but there’s also this thing about still being alive for the people there – some of the situations these occasions throw up are farcical and absurd. We celebrate the fact that we’re not the ones being buried. And some of the humour is about cruelty. Families are cruellest, but the quickest to make up. They give you the hardest time, but they also give you the most support.’
This production by a new company, Catdog, might well prove a warmly entertaining night of grief.
CCA, Glasgow, Wed 14 & Thu 15 July