The Memory of Water | Black Swan State Theatre CompanyLeft - Julia Moody. Cover - Rebecca Davis, Michelle Fornasier and Melinda Dransfield. Photos - Gary Marsh

It has been a while since I’ve seen a really decent and reliable show like The Memory of Water. This production directed by Roger Hodgeman as part of the Black Swan State Theatre Company 2009 Season is a wonderfully cohesive performance with few faults. A brilliant script by English playwright Shelagh Stephenson is brought to the fore with high-quality direction, set, costume and cohesive acting from all members of the ensemble.

Set in the mid 90’s, The Memory of Water tells of three adult sisters (Mary, Teresa and Catherine) who come together at the family house for their mother’s (Vi) funeral. Over the course of an evening / morning they fight, reminisce, laugh cry and baffle their male partners with their overly dramatic emotions. It is a heartfelt story of family bonds, love and loss, trust and honour. Surprisingly with a key theme of death, it is a funny play, and it is this humour that adds extra poignancy to the later scenes full of revelations.

As Mary, Rebecca Davis successfully portrayed a late 30’s woman struggling with her hidden demons. Of all the sisters’ stories, Mary’s is the most dramatic, almost overly so, including conversations with her dead mother (Julia Moody). Davis excelled at the portrayal, but her lack of consistency with Mary’s accent was her downfall. I felt that Mary’s long term affair with the married doctor Mike (Geoff Kelso) also lacked the spark or connection I had expected it to have.

Melinda Dransfield is Catherine, the younger, ditsy sister who still craves her older sisters’ attention and love. Her opening monologue was a highlight, as were her many sharp and speedy blurts of speech. Dransfield pulled off the accent and Catherine’s erratic personality with ease.

Teresa (Michelle Fornasier) is the organized yet stressed sister, who has felt the burden of looking after Vi in her later years, and blames her other sisters for not being there. Running a health food supplement store with her long suffering husband Frank (a brilliant turn by Stuart Halusz) creates some wonderful moments between her and Frank. As with previous productions that Fornasier has been in, she excels at the neurotic, fast paced characters.

As the ghost of Vi, Moody had the perfect accent and created a brilliant character; a swinging, sensationalizing 1960’s version of the mother. Although the concept of having a ghost is oft overused to its detriment, with some effective direction and Moody’s excellent portrayal, the character of Vi was flawless.

Before the show there is time to admire Steve Nolan’s set of Vi’s bedroom, complete outdated furniture and furnishings. Snow can be seen on the tree and roof behind the rooms’ walls, and the seaside location was effectively represented by Ash Gibson Greig’s sound design. Nolan is also responsible for the fabulous outfits, and it is obvious he had a great time creating Vi’s wardrobe of eclectic outfits.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable evening full of laughs. All elements have blended together to create a wonderful, cohesive whole, and the cast and Creatives should be applauded for this. I encourage anyone wanting a good night out to go and see The Memory of Water.

Black Swan State Theatre Company
Memory of Water
by Shelagh Stephenson

Director Roger Hodgman

Venue: Playhouse Theatre
Dates: 4 - 19 July
Previews: 4, 6 & 7 July
Tickets: Standard $48, Concession $40, Groups 8+ $38, Previews $38, Students $20
Bookings: BOCS Ticketing (08) 9484 1133 |

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