The Bovey Tracey Players present Shelagh Stephenson’s Olivier Award Winning Comedy ‘Memory of Water’ from 27 to 30 October 2010 at 7.30pm in the Bovey Tracey Town Hall.
The Town Hall has an entrance hall that offers an interesting history of the group combined with pictures of past productions. On the door you are greeted by a friendly face who points you in the right direction to find the bar and raffle – a choice of two colour tickets! Front of House staff were attentive, very pleasant and easily identified with blue ‘Steward’ badges which presented a very solid welcome.
Tickets were available on the door at £7.50 each. Around to your seats there’s a first come first served approach to the audience and a nice bit of raked seating. You can only enter the rows from one end, but with good leg room you can easily settle in for the night. The Jolly Lion was a particular fan of the house lights, which have two settings, on and off – with no gradual fade – which has an amazing silencing effect of your audience, particularly if they are still stood around the room chatting in the interval.
‘The Memory of Water’ tells the story of three sisters on the eve of their mother’s funerals. It gives them the opportunity to discuss their relationships with each other, with their mother and with the men in their lives. A delightfully dark comedy, the script allows for a wide range of emotions as family members across generations compare their memories of events and realise that no two see things quite the same way. Ultimately, it becomes clear that we are all turning into our parents, whether we know their character traits and accept them or not.
The set was the late mother’s bedroom, complete with a substantial crack that ventured across two walls. A window dominated the centre of the stage, with the curtains remaining closed for the most part. Unfortunately, once opened, the window seemed to look out onto a grey concrete building, whereas I’m sure the grey was representing a thick mist or snow, it was the one effect that didn’t quite work. The rest of the room was stunning, with great furniture that was sure to be a comforting retreat for Vi down through the years.
Liz Parr played Vi, in a performance where you knew that all was not quite right with the character. The lights were down whenever she appeared, her voice giving you the lines, but constantly sounding surprised to be in the room. She was, of course, a smoking argumentative ghost, and she was stealing scenes every time she appeared. Whether it was floating around the stage towards the end of the first act, or getting to have a confrontation with eldest daughter Mary in the second, she had such presence and delivery it would challenge anyone to leave without changing the way they treat their mother.
Jenny Connelly’s Mary showed the burden of being the eldest child. Pressured into succeeding with a career, she is now colder and full of resentment to the family that drove her out into medicine. Not one to return to the family home, she is haunted by her mother and the decisions made for her growing up. Connelly has a lovely line patronising elder sibling when speaking to her sisters. Her most interesting moments will remain the scenes with her mother and the relationship with TV doctor boyfriend Mike. Her character is quieter and more thoughtful than her sisters, but this is the strength in the balance between them. When given the chance to let out emotions, specifically when she deals with the family secret, there is a great power in her performance which is captivating.
Su Kaye is the middle daughter, Teresa, who stayed local to her parents. She opted to marry and run a business much as her own parents had. Never showing any resentment for the care she provided her mother, instead her anger is at the sisters – not for leaving, but for not coming back at the end. Kaye’s finest hour in the evening is when she describes the telephone call from the hospital at 3am asking her to come as her mother has taken a turn for the worse. She knows what this means, asks to be told the truth, goes to her dead mother, but then waits until a more godly hour before she contacts her two sisters. It is these moments of expressing the loss that are the highlights of the play.
Lisa Huet completes the family as youngest sister Catherine, who spends the first act getting stoned and second act propositioning Frank and feeling even more sorry for herself. Huet does well to deliver a sympathetic performance among the mania, which could easily degenerate into plain comic relief. She is sincere to the youngest sibling who always has to leave a room, never gets told anything, and who can’t hold down a relationship for trying to hard – seventy eight men so far…
There is a great balance between the three ladies, they have wonderfully contrasting styles in hair and fashion, but each hold a beauty that convinces that they are sisters, with little tics that make them Vi’s daughters absolutely.
There is room for the men in their lives, with Mary’s Martin having a nice entrance through the window. Mark Dunn presents a likeable partner, despite Martin having been unfaithful to his sick wife for the last five years. You warm to him as the outsider to the family, and he offers some straight light relief in his dealings with Catherine and when he and Mary consider having sex in her late mother’s bed the night before they bury her, best not.
Teresa’s husband Frank is the more obvious comic part. Mark Godwin gets a range of great one liners which he delivers with ease. Frank is quiet, frequently compared to the girl’s late father, and Godwin resists the temptation to give a knowing wink to the audience the funnier he gets. Always true to Frank, you know he is worth keeping an eye on, no matter who is speaking.
If there was a problem with the Thursday night performance it was pace. Unfortunately many scene were drawn out with long pauses, sometimes deliberate, sometimes less so. When the bickering scenes should have been reaching their height, some difficulties with lines prevented the escalation in emotion, whilst a long drunk sequence also suffered for a similar reason. Other awkward slips included one character introducing himself with his real name, before correcting to use the character.
Under the direction of David Wilson the mother’s bedroom is a room that everyone has a reason to be in. The cast always have something to do in what is a good space well utilised. With a lot of business with costumes and props throughout, the cast had a good hold on what they were doing – and whilst there could have been better pace, you cannot fault the characters and atmosphere created.
Back out in the Hall, the interval had a range of ice creams on sale, with four flavours to choose from, together with a bar of wines and lagers up for grabs. No sign of teas or coffees, but if you’re going to eat ice cream in October it’s difficult to be churlish at the lack of hot drinks.
The raffle was well organised, with the numbers drawn during the first Act and presented written clearly on a board held up for all to see during the interval, with prizes ready for collection. A nice approach.
A 50p programme holds eight pages with nice cast biographies and photographs. With notes from the Chairman and Director the booklet is welcoming and informative. Great value for the information it contains – it’s just a shame the back cover is blank. Although the precise dates are not in the programme, the pantomime, ‘Dick Whittington’ in February 2011 will be well worth a look.