The Memory of Water, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Three sisters return to their late mother's house before her funeral.

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Mary, Teresa and Catherine are the three women's names, and above the bed-head a small crucifix hangs across a jagged crack in the wall. That sets the Catholic scene for Shelagh Stephenson's drama, the fact that mother has just died is enough to trigger the action.

Well, not the action so much as the talk, not quarrelling we are assured, but endless bickering. For the three females, hardly helped by two men on stage and one who never gets round to appearing, try to figure out the meaning of their memories as they wait for the funeral.

Emotions run high, as they usually do at wakes, while revelations come with a heady mixture of guilt. But there are moments of laughter too, almost of hysteria, as human feelings come tumbling out in language that skids out of control from raw emotion to psychobabble. Some of the scenes seem drawn out and at times the cast seems to have borrowed words as well as ideas from some newly discovered D H Lawrence novel.

But there is power here, along with a certain pretentiousness. Nola Merckel, Mia Stevenson and Emma Wyatt gives strong characterisations of their sharply differentiated roles in John Dane's fine production. A final irony comes when it is the men who have to carry out the coffin.

t The Memory of Water runs at the Maddermarket Theatre until February 1. Box office: 01603 620917

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