Family get-togethers can be a minefield and this one is no exception. Three estranged sisters return to the family home for their mother’s funeral.
There’s Teresa the long-suffering one, Mary the clever arrogant one, and Catherine the neurotic delusional one. They bicker and snipe, as their hapless partners are caught in the crossfire. Arguments are punctuated by moments of hilarity, and emotions are laid bare as some unwelcome truths are unearthed, with the aid of whisky and grass. Why is Mary so obsessed with finding that green tin and why is she having conversations with her dead mother?
From the reactions I’ve encountered since choosing this play for our next production, it doesn’t seem to be very widely known, though it certainly deserves to be. With some challenging monologues and soul-searching duologues, it is often used on drama courses. I saw it in the West End in 2000, when it won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, and early casts included Alison Steadman, Samantha Bond, Haydn Gwynn and Julia Sawalha.
What initially attracted me when choosing a play to direct was the wonderfully mordant dialogue, but as rehearsals have progressed we’ve discovered so many more layers to the characters. As well as some darkly funny moments (death has its ridiculous side after all), there are some very poignant moments when resentments, loneliness, longings and secrets rise to the surface. Then there’s the whole question of memory, what we retain of the past and whether it’s reliable.
These three sisters shared a childhood but they can’t seem to agree on what actually happened. Then, there’s Vi, their mother, who “returns” one last time to try and set the record straight and gain some recognition for all her efforts. “I took you on picnics,” she says “but you just remember what you didn’t have.” I’m sure many of the pithy exchanges will strike a note with parents and children alike. But it’s also memories that unite these three, albeit for brief moments and, despite their protestations, each of them retains some essence of Vi, as water retains a memory of a long-vanished substance … or so they say.
Not suitable for under-14s0p
This amateur production is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, LTD. Supporting Emmaus Lambeth, helping formerly homeless people – charity No 1069610