The Olivier Award winning play, The Memory of Water, produced by 3 Big Men Productions, opens soon at Chapel Off Chapel – a poignant, wonderfully evocative and funny play by English playwright Shelagh Stephenson – it traverses the lives of three sisters who are coming to grips with their mother’s death. Familial ties keep them inexorably linked, but memory…well, that is a separate issue all together!

Karla Hillam (Go Your Own Way, The Divine Miss Bette, The Lizard of Oz) plays youngest sister, Catherine, the most lively and rebellious of the three and the one who, on the surface at least, needs the most attention.

“On the surface she’s the wild and wayward one but she’s also very misunderstood and in need of a lot of love,” says Hillam.”She has always felt on the outer within the family and this manifests in lots of funny and inappropriate ways. She tends to irritate the rest of the family with her antics. She’s had a lot of boyfriends but something always seems to go wrong, she’s rather unlucky in love I would say, which is really all she wants. Someone to make her feel safe and to share her life with.”

In fact, it is this steadfast approach to life and romantic attachment that Hillam admires  most about her character.

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“She never gives up on love, even though you might think she’s out of her mind to think that way most of the time,” she says. “I love that about her, it makes her endearing and resilient and she doesn’t take herself to seriously.”

The work focuses very much on questions of memory – the transient nature of it; the unreliability of it; the elusive nature of it, and the fierce protection of it when any memory is challenged.

Stephenson has written a part comedy, part tragedy wherein the three sisters, on the eve of their mother’s funeral, are faced with demons and memories that, because of their very irreconcilable nature, lead to bickering, accusations and hurt.

Says Hillam: ” The main theme of the play is around memory and how it affects the way we see the world. But it’s also a play about family, loss, love, dysfunctional relationships and acceptance. I think there is a commonality to the themes that everyone can relate to. After-all most families have some form of dysfunction to them, and those that say they don’t are lying or in denial.”

Hillam was initially drawn to the work because of her desire to work with director Richard Sarell (Neighbours, Blue Heelers, Home and Away) and Darren Mort (3 Big Men Productions) again –  they had previously worked together on Hobson’s Choice- but it was the play itself that clinched the deal

“When Richard gave me the play to read I couldn’t put it down,” says Hillam. “It was so funny and engaging on the page, I knew it would be hysterical on the floor. The language was so bright and vibrant, they could NOT keep me away after that.”

Along with sisters Mary, Teresa and Catherine, Stephenson introduces the somewhat deceitful doctor Mike (having an affair with middle sister, Mary) and the somewhat disillusioned Frank, husband of eldest sister, Teresa. There are also carefully crafted  moments with mother Vi in her ethereal form – an interesting trope allowing for  pragmatism yet bearing a hugely compassionate sting in the tail.

The Memory of Water is a witty, thought provoking piece that is guaranteed to push some buttons.

Says Hillam: ” It’s such a fun show. Come and laugh til you cry at our family’s dysfunction. I’m sure you’ll recognise a few qualities from these characters in your own family.”

Featuring a fine ensemble with: Soren Jensen, Ana Mitsikas, Carissa McAllen, Darren Mort, Karla Hillam, Janet Watson Kruse and Sonia Street and directed by Richard Sarell

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November 16 – 26

Bookings: http://chapeloffchapel.com.au/melbourne-comedy-theatre-art/melbourne-events/melbourne-comedy/the-memory-of-water-by-shelagh-stephenson-16-26-november/

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