A HAMPSTEAD THEATRE ORIGINAL
THE MEMORY OF WATER
By Shelagh Stephenson
Directed by Alice Hamilton
Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with an interval
I wish you’d stop remembering things that didn’t actually happen
3 Sep - 16 Oct 2021
Box Office: 020 7722 9301
★★★★ 'An exquisitely acted revival. Alice Hamilton’s production is so detailed and yet so warm-blooded. A fine balance between sadness, anger and comedy.' The Times
★★★★ 'A poignantly relevant production of Shelagh Stephenson's darkly comic play. Fresh and nuanced.' Independent
★★★★ 'A bracing blast of fresh air from Alice Hamilton's raucous production' Daily Mail
★★★★★ 'Alice Hamilton’s production is all splendid, including the wickedly specific designs by Anna Reid. It all serves Stephenson’s beautiful writing with laser precision, and the cast are faultless.' Libby Purves, British Theatre
★★★★ 'Shelagh Stephenson’s play comes back home for a stunning revival.' Broadway World
‘Stephenson’s play balances riotous humour and pathos, with its melancholia lingering in your memory.’ The Guardian
'Stephenson's wickedly funny depiction of the derangement of loss is beautifully handled in Alice Hamilton’s production' The Financial Times
'Glorious, hilarious and heart-warming, expertly directed by Alice Hamilton' The Spectator
Winner of the Olivier Award for Best Comedy, Shelagh Stephenson’s poignant and painfully funny comedy is about conflicting memories, life and loss.
Mary, Catherine and Teresa are sisters who think they share a common past. A world of disputed bicycles, midnight ice-cream sodas, Mum's cocktail dresses and perfumed advice - a seaside childhood punctuated by the odd monosyllable from Dad. But where does reality end and family myth begin? Why has war broken out in Mother's bedroom - and why is Vi, so recently deceased, still with us?
The Memory of Water makes a highly anticipated return to Hampstead 25 years after its World Premiere here in 1996. Following West End and New York transfers, The Memory of Water was also adapted into a film.
Lucy Black (The Haystack, Hampstead; The Durrells, ITV), Carolina Main (King Lear, RSC; Unforgotten, ITV) and Laura Rogers (Pressure, West End; Rules For Living, English Touring Company) play sisters Teresa, Catherine and Mary, with Henry Everett (Anthony & Cleopatra, National Theatre; Richard II, Globe), Adam James (Consent, National Theatre/West End; Doctor Foster, BBC) and Lizzy McInnerny (The Crown, Netflix; Back to Life, BBC) completing the cast.
Stephenson’s other plays include An Experiment with an Air Pump (Royal Exchange/Hampstead), Ancient Lights (Hampstead), Five Kinds of Silence (Lyric Hammersmith) and Mappa Mundi (National Theatre).
Alice Hamilton returns to Hampstead following Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter last year and the Olivier-nominated Every Day I Make Greatness Happen and Paradise (both Hampstead Downstairs). Other directing credits include Blood Wedding (Salisbury Playhouse) and While We’re Here (Bush).
We are grateful to Lin and Ken Craig who have generously supported this production.
Our promise to you
In the event of The Memory of Water being postponed, you can choose between a full refund or credit to be used for any show at Hampstead.
Hampstead Theatre is delighted to open The Memory of Water following Government advice. As always, our audience, company and staff are our top priority. For more information about how we’re keeping you safe, please click here.
We present entertaining and original theatre, and we want you to have the best experience possible. We understand that, as part of this, some audience members may appreciate additional guidance on the content of our plays. Click here for more information.
'I loved this exquisitely acted revival of Shelagh Stephenson's first play, about grief, memory and identity'
'There is a certain sitcom quippishness between the three sisters who return to the family home by the sea in North Yorkshire for their mothers cremation, the joys are mostly in the play's clear-eyed depiction of buried secrets, thwarted dreams and ties that bind'
'Stephenson shows everyone groping vainly towards some sort of perfect future free of their constricted pasts'
'Alice Hamilton's production is so detailed and yet so warm-blooded that it earns any contrivances on its way to a poignancy that sticks in the mind'
Dominic Maxwell, 13 September, 2021
'The revival of Shelagh Stephenson's 25-year-old comedy is a bracing blast of fresh air.'
'What I love about this play is that it has blood flowing through its veins.'
'Stephenson's work is a raucous meditation on how we all concoct delusions from unreliable memories. Where lesser writers might find this troubling, she finds it joyous and liberating.'
'Alice Hamilton's raucous production, set in a chintzy bedroom suite, is a salutary reminder that it's mad to be normal and normal to be mad.'
Patrick Marmion, 17 September, 2021
'Can you steal other people’s memories? How can you remember something that didn’t happen? What happens when memory begins to fade? Back in 1996, Shelagh Stephenson delved into these questions in The Memory of Water, a darkly comic play about death and grief. Twenty-five years later, the family drama has returned to its original home of Hampstead Theatre under Alice Hamilton’s direction, with a production that maintains its poignant relevancy.'
'At the heart of the show are Lucy Black, Laura Rogers and Carolina Main, who perfectly capture the sisterly dynamic as grief forces them to act like adults while reverting to childlike bickering and grabbing... All three actors shine'
'The Memory of Water is at its best when comedy and tragedy meld together, highlighting the awful yet funny things you really shouldn’t but can’t help laughing about in grief.'
Isobel Lewis, 10 September, 2021
'This portrait of three bickering sisters, trading memories and revelations in the days before a mother’s funeral in a snowy Yorkshire winter, was a Hampstead discovery 25 years ago: a debut by Shelagh Stephenson, herself one of five sisters. Seized by the theatre and finessed to perfection by Terry Johnson it won an Olivier, went to the West End and the US. It hasn’t faded.'
'The cast is faultless: Lucy Black is nervy, organizing Teresa, married to stolid Yorkshire Frank; Laura Rogers is Mary, the sardonic clever nerve specialist having a long affair with a married TV doctor; Carolina Main is the youngest, Catherine, ricocheting helplessly, hysterically and hypochondriacally between faithless boyfriends.'
'When Mike-the-married-boyfriend arrives, frozen and grumpy from a long unheated train, the chemistry changes. Adam James is perfect in his doctorly detachment and already visible unreliability about commitment to Mary.'
'When Kulvinder Ghir’s Frank appears, to find the women gone hysterical trying on their dead mother’s awful cocktail gowns, he gets one of the finest comedy entrance-speeches of any year'
'It’s all splendid, including the wickedly specific place-and-period designs by Anna Reid (oh, posh Yorkshire! O, the bedspread and the mirrored wardrobes!). It all serves Stephenson’s beautiful writing with laser precision. It’s on until the 16th of October, and after the 27th of this month will no longer be ‘distanced’. Actually, I am tempted to go again, just to feel a more solidly packed audience laughing and gasping around me. That’s how much fun it was.'
Libby Purves, 10 September, 2021
'25 years after its first outing and many memories later, the play's come back home directed by Hampstead regular Alice Hamilton. Teresa (Lucy Black), Mary (Laura Rogers), and Catherine (Carolina Main) gather together after their mother Vi's death. As they wait for her funeral, their constant sisterly bickering brings to the surface the contrasting recollections of their younger years.'
'They're complicated women, as solid as they come; it's a joy to see Black, Rogers, and Main interact as the trio.'
'Stephenson aims a magnifying lens at how such an intense bond deals under vast amounts of grief and pain. There's so much tragedy hidden under the coat of comedy the playwright gives the story, which is genuinely funny. The three women, along with Teresa's husband Frank (Kulvinder Ghir) and Mary's boyfriend Mike (Adam James) engage in a tight battle of dark funerary humour, perhaps to cope with the actual cause why they're all together.'
'Designer Anna Reid, another regular at the venue, finally makes her main stage debut. She creates a stunning set that, as per her trademark, is elegant and refined with a touch of unexpected.'
'The mirrors play with Joanna Town's lighting design, creating intriguing shapes on the floor during pivotal moments in the show, which adds visual drama too. Even after a quarter of a century after its conception, The Memory of Water remains poignant.'
Cindy Marcolina, 10 September, 2021
COMPOSER & SOUND
VOICE & DIALECT
BRIONY BARNETT CDG
FRANK (FROM 15 SEPT)
Patrick Marmion awards Shelagh Stephenson's 'The Memory of Water' four stars.
For a limited time only, you can book all three Autumn Main Stage shows - The Memory of Water, 'night, Mother and Peggy For You - and save with our season offer.
Lucy Black, Kulvinder Ghir, Adam James, Lizzy McInnerny, Carolina Main and Laura Rogers will star in Shelagh Stephenson's Olivier Award-winning comedy The Memory of Water, which received its World Premier at Hampstead in 1996.
Hampstead Theatre announces two new shows for Autumn 2021: Shelagh Stephenson's The Memory of Water, directed by Alice Hamilton, on the Main Stage and the World Premiere of Malindadzimu, directed by Monique Touko, Downstairs.
Previews, Mondays and matinees
Full price: £18/£27/£30
Under 30s/Students: £10/15
Seniors* (matinees only): £20/£25
Groups: For every 9 tickets get the 10th free
Tuesday – Saturday evenings
Full price: £25/£32/£37
Under 30s/Students: £10/£15
Groups: For every 9 tickets get the 10th free
All prices are subject to change. Book early for the best price.