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Selective amnesia

Jes Camilleri reviews The Memory of Water, produced by Masquerade at the Blue Box, Msida.

Kate Decesare in The Memory of Water.

Kate Decesare in The Memory of Water.

I have always been fascinated by the strong urge that humans exhibit for procreation. Bearing and raising children is a painful, exhausting and thankless task and yet the lengths to which some people go to have children of their own are nothing less than mind-boggling and frankly completely irrational.

Yet, we know that just like all multi-cellular and complex species, we die. And, therefore, reproduction is the only way we can continue our legacy. A legacy is, however, only sustained by memory and unfortunately memories are ephemeral and beyond our control. We look helplessly from beyond the grave as others (even our nearest and dearest) forget, mangle and fabricate the memories we leave behind.

In Shelagh Stephenson’s play The Memory of Water we find three daughters coming together the day after their mother’s death to attend her funeral service. All three come with their own baggage and their own foggy memories of their childhood.

They fail to agree on a unified view of their mother as they struggle with their own disparate memories of the woman who gave them life and still lives on in them.

The right blend of comedy and pathos to make it one of my favourite productions at the Blue Box – M Space

Director Stephen Oliver directs the cast of six actors brilliantly to convey the myriad emotions that give colour to this wonderful script that deftly uses humour to cope with the tragedy.

He has cast the actors very carefully and they have repaid him with some memorable and polished performances. The three sisters form the central characters with Pia Zammit playing Mary, the sensible doctor; Coryse Borg playing Teresa, the neurotic homeopath; and Nadia Vella playing Catherine, the young libertine.

Mary is the only one who keeps having ‘visions’ of their mother Vi (played by a steely Kate Decesare) and Zammit gives the character both warmth and depth peppered with a dry sense of humour.

On the other hand, Borg plays Teresa as the stern and uptight older sister prone to some serious (and hilarious) lapses of judgement (particularly when drugs and alcohol are thrown in the mix). Vella gives a bravura performance as the youngest daughter struggling with her own insecurities and emotional meltdowns as she struggles to grieve for a mother she feels was largely absent from her childhood.

The female cast is complemented by two male characters. These are Mike, Mary’s ‘married boyfriend’ (played by Stefan Farrugia), and Frank, Teresa’s long-suffering husband (played by Chris Dingli). Both actors give excellent performances that showcase their strong comic timing and versatility.

Although somewhat let down by a set design which was certainly not to the standard of the rest of the production elements, this production had the right blend of comedy and pathos to make it one of my favourite productions at the Blue Box – M Space. It is also a fitting way for Masquerade to enter into their third decade. Here’s to many more!

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