The Memory of Water will be the spring production from the Chichester Players, with Simon Walters directing the play for the second time.
“I have directed it before, and I wanted to have another go when I moved down to Felpham a couple of years ago. We moved from Tunbridge Wells, and we did the production about eight years ago in the Oast Theatre in Tunbridge. It wasn’t exactly a case of unfinished business. It went very well, but it was a play that I liked. I enjoyed the story and basically it seemed to me to fit very well here.
“I know the story, but I have forgotten the production. We start from scratch which is the best approach because you don’t have the same cast and you can never have the same circumstances. I remember very little about the production, though it went well. But I remember a lot about the current production!”
Mary, now a consultant psychiatric doctor at a major London Hospital, lives a dysfunctional relationship with another doctor who himself is married with children. When her mother dies, Mary returns to her childhood home on the north Yorkshire coast for the funeral. There she meets up once again with older sister, Theresa, an energetic control freak struggling to manage her mother’s funeral, a health-food business and a tired, reluctant husband. The younger sister, Catherine, also flies in for the event, from Spain, but in her drugged-up state has only a tenuous grasp on the reality of her mother’s passing, the truth of her relationship with her man or any part of life that does not have herself at its centre.
The old home brings memories flooding back and in confronting her mother’s ghost, Mary finds that their memories do not coincide. Neither do the three sisters themselves remember their former lives in any way harmoniously.
“It is about these three sisters that have parted from each other since their childhood on the west Yorkshire coast, and they have all gone their different ways. But they discover that the memories that they have of their childhood do not match up with the memories of other members of the family. People remember things differently…
“It is extremely funny. There is a very dry and particular humour which is very amusing to do. The middle sister has by now become a consultant psychiatric doctor and is beginning to be haunted by her dead mother. In her confrontations with her mother, she realises that her mother was doing one thing and she is remembering something different. As a director, it is about the speed and the timing and all those sorts of things. You have to keep the play whizzing along, and all my actresses are wonderful. They are great. There are two men involved who are really left behind by the pace of the girls. To that extent, it is a girls’ story. The men are not exactly ciphers but they are not the leading relationships in the play.
“I have acted a great deal all my life, and in recent years I have started directing and have enjoyed it very much. I enjoy opening a book and revealing a play and letting the audience go home knowing what the play is all about, especially in this case where the play that appears on the surface is not really what the play is all about. On the surface it is about three sisters meeting hilariously after many years, but there are many deeper layers of significance in their relationships…”
The production is at Chichester High School from April 11-14. Tickets on www.chichesterplayers.org.uk.
For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2