I couldn’t resist a final post about The Memory of Water seeing as the memories came back to haunt me last night. Quite literally, in the shape of seven of the cast and crew, including my ‘dead mother’, although she wasn’t wearing ‘that turquoise flowery dress’ or making the room smell of ‘Phul Nana’.
In the days since our final performance, the play has refused to leave me completely, by continuing the series of coincidences that accompanied the rehearsal process.
Then last week I attended with Husband of Mine, the funeral of his aunt, who had suffered with Alzheimer’s during the past year of her life, and had died on our opening night, leaving behind three grown-up daughters. In the words of Catherine: “I went to a brilliant funeral.” Well, no, it wasn’t actually: can a funeral ever be brilliant? But it was made especially poignant, given the similarities of the situation.
We also received a great review in the local press, emphasising ‘extremely strong performances’. No mention of the director though, which I feel is a great disservice given that it was her vision that allowed us all to give performances that were ‘stunningly portrayed’. Grrr. It’s always ‘Sir Peter Hall’s revival-this’ or ”Sir Trevor Nunn’s production of-that’ – why not afford the same respect to all?
And then so last night, most of the cast and crew came round to mine for something to eat and to watch the DVD of the film version of the play. There were some key people missing; Charming On-Stage Lover for one, still suffering with a trapped nerve aggravated by too much lawn mowing. Probably just as well he was missing; I would have been embarrassed all over again during the film version of pages 27-33, given that a lot of the action took place up against a tree, albeit without a neatly trimmed lawn. Thankfully the stage play is written to be performed on one set, although I’m sure our set designer would have been able to come up with suitable greenery.
The film version came out in 2002. Entitled ‘Before You Go’, it stars Julie Walters, Joanne Whalley and Victoria Hamilton as the three newly bereaved sisters. The consensus from all at the end of the evening was that it worked better as a play than as a film; we felt that the characters lacked depth and the emotion of the piece was barely visible. No mention was made of the mother’s death from Alzheimer’s; something that had been an integral part of the play. But the interesting and most major change was in a scene between Mary and her mother, Vi (now right at the end of the film; although it is Scene 1 in Act II in the play). The emphasis had been shifted from the mother forgiving Mary for her coldness and indifference in the years since she was forced to give her baby away – ‘I forgave your father; now I’ll forgive you’ – to the mother asking for Mary’s forgiveness, presumably for making the decision to give the child up for adoption and for it never to be mentioned again – ‘I forgave your father; now can you forgive me?’ (or words to that effect). Shelagh Stephenson wrote the screenplay for the film, but it is hard to understand her reasons behind this change that alters the fundamental relationship between Mary and her mother.
‘Learn to love the cold.’
This is the final line of the play – showing Mary’s acceptance of being ‘second best’ to her lover’s wife and resigning herself to staying childless for the sake of the relationship.
I’ve been thinking about the literal resonance with me of those words and in particular, some of her other last words to Mike, “I’ve hated winter all my life. Ice on the windows, dark at three in the afternoon…. I’ve hated the stasis, the waiting for Spring.”
So true. As Mother of Mine will tell you, I’ve always dreaded that gloomy January to March period, when the anticipation of Autumn gives way to the excitement of Christmas and the prospect of a new year, one that often falls desperately short of all it first promises to be. But this year? For the first time, I have felt truly invigorated and ready to take on those first three months – thanks to ‘The Memory of Water’.
And next year? Do I ‘learn to love the cold’ as Mary did, or do I seek out something to fill those dark winter months?
Well today, Spring has well and truly sprung – we had our first ice cream cone of the season on the seafront this morning, and this afternoon, Children of Mine have had water fights in the garden.
The answer is clear – the cold’s not here any more.