“All this will be gone soon… the room will go probably.”
And so it did. On Sunday morning, after just a few hours sleep, the cast and crew of The Memory of Water assembled at the theatre to take down the set; dismantle the now infamous bed that has dominated my recent posts; strike the green tin box with chrysanthemums on it, the joints and the other props; tidy the dressing room; clear up the bar and clean the toilets. Yes, really – that’s what being part of a production at The Priory Playhouse in Arundel is all about.
I feel so fortunate to have been involved in The Memory of Water; being drawn into it through a whole series of coincidences.
I found out that it was being produced locally when talking to the director at another production at The Priory Playhouse. I asked to read the script, prior to auditions. It only took a few pages of reading to fall in love with the play, and specifically with the character of Mary – the challenge of such an intense yet still comedic role would be such a contrast to my usual portrayal of the ditsy or – in the words of Mother-in-Law of Mine – tarty, character in any piece.
Just two days after devouring the play cover to cover, the monthly e-newsletter from the fabulous Theatre by the Lake in Keswick arrived in my in-box. Keswick, in Cumbria’s Northern Lake District, has always been a favourite place of mine – it’s where Husband of Mine and I, and now The Family, do most of our ‘serious’ walking. We had already booked a week in August, going with In-Laws of Mine and staying in a Victorian house in Stanger Street. And The Memory of Water was on, for just the one night, during the time we were there. I think I phoned the box office straight away. And then asked (nicely but firmly) if the In-Laws could stay in that night to look after Children of Mine; fortunately they said yes.
So I saw the play for the first time in the intimate atmosphere of the Studio at TBTL, and laughed and cried alongside the rest of the full house that Monday night. Then in the interval, there I was, three hundred and sixty-five miles away from my home town, part way through watching a play that I knew I would be auditioning for in the autumn, and I bumped into a couple who I have acted with, and been directed by, at The Priory Playhouse. They were seeing the production in the main house that night, but were going later that week to see TBTL’s The Memory of Water.
Audition day: I read for the parts of both Mary and Catherine. At the end, the director asked if I had a preference for either part. I gabbled something about really, really wanting to play Mary, but that as I already loved the play so much, I just wanted to be in it, so not to let that rule me out completely if she saw me as one of the other female characters. I got the part of Mary, and the other roles were filled by wonderfully talented actors – and friends – old and new.
Rehearsals were hard work, but immensely fun, with some deep discussions with the cast and our fantastic director about characterisation really making the whole process emotional, thoughtful and creative.
“You do this deliberately, you wilfully misinterpret what we do because you think it’s funny or something…” – Teresa
“You put words into my mouth… you in particular, you mangle everything into something else.” – Vi
“And you just look irritated. You’ve no patience with me. No tolerance.” – Vi
“Sometimes when I’m talking and I know you’re not really listening…” – Vi
“…looking so bloody superior.” – Teresa
“…her breathtaking, fucking arrogance.” – Teresa
For me, it was as much these comments about Mary by the other characters, as it was her own dialogue, that gave me a huge head start when thinking about the characterisation – I was able to draw on my recollections of someone in my past who I think had traits that I wanted to bring out in my interpretation of Mary. Not, obviously, someone I’m in touch with now.
Saturday night’s final performance brought a strange mixture of emotions – the ‘high’, that any performance gives; the ‘low’, when it actually sinks in that the current production has come to an end. I hung around at the theatre that night until the last possible moment, drove home incredibly slowly (for me) and, after banging on all week as Mary about just wanting “another hour’s sleep”, felt wide awake and unable to go to bed.
Which brings me to the next set of coincidences. Saturday, 27th March was World Theatre Day and I had been following the folk at the World Theatre Day blog on Twitter. So Saturday I joined in with tweeting by mentioning how I was celebrating WTD10 – by appearing in The Memory of Water. Within minutes I had a good luck message from them, and later that day I was exchanging thoughts with an actor and director in Canada, Trilby Jeeves, who was fresh from directing her own production of the play.
Checking Facebook at 1am is probably not a great idea, but it did mean that I also saw that the Theatre by the Lake had succumbed to Twitter. Another coincidence, which meant I couldn’t resist sending a 140 character version of the story above to them, resulting in a lovely reply on Sunday.
My final glance at Twitter led me to the final coincidence and back to my new-found Canadian tweeter to read her blogpost for the day – World Theatre Day and More! – in which she salutes her own cast and crew for The Memory of Water. Spookily, she was celebrating with them that very night; I posted a comment, and discovered the next morning she had read it out to cast and crew. As she says in reply: “… how fitting we meet on World Theatre Day with the merging, across the nations, of our experiences of “The Memory of Water.”
And as for the tin box, full of memories from another generation, well I’m not sure it’s green or has chrysanthemums on it. It’s probably not at the back of the airing cupboard either… but I know it’s waiting for me to open it. One day.