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Theatre Review: ‘The Memory of Water’ from New Company Wag the Dog

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A new theatre company hits the stage this week with an award-winning show that’ll hit home with mamas

If you’re a mama looking for a bit of culture this week, why not check out Singapore’s newest player in the arts scene, a cooperative theatre company called Wag the Dog. Its first production, The Memory of Water by Shelagh Stephenson, is playing at the Drama Centre Black Box from now through 9 July. With a great cast, committed team and award-winning script it looks set to be a fantastic show!

The Memory of Water is a black comedy, filled with sharp dialogue and smart wit. It won ‘Best New Comedy’ at London’s prestigious Olivier Awards in 2000 and has played all over the world, although this will be its first showing by a professional theatre group here in Singapore.

The ensemble of actors who make up Wag the Dog came together just over a year ago. As passionate professional artists, they were keen to do something “a bit different” and importantly, work together to make great theatre. After much research and deep discussion, they set up as a cooperative theatre company, a structure that’s widely used in Europe, Australia and the States, but had never been trialled here in Singapore.

Selecting their first script was always going to be a challenge, but the moment they read Memory of Water they all knew it would make for a perfect debut. Warren Baumgart Jr, one of the founding members of the company and the show’s director explained,

“Since we are a co-op theatre company, a great deal of planning needed to go into our first production. We are all investors in the company so a lot is at stake for us this first time out. But we all loved this play – it’s punchy without being too controversial – and are really excited about bringing it to life here.”

The story is of three sisters who have travelled far apart on their own individual life journeys. They have just been called together in their childhood home on the eve of their mother’s funeral. As their stories unfold, images of their mother’s influence on their lives takes shape. The family strains and their individual secrets emerge alongside their hysterical alternative versions of the same childhood past. Hilarity and tears ensue. Still, they are sisters, and despite the inaccuracies of the reminiscences and the accuracies of the recriminations, one truth remains – they are family.

The title refers to the homeopathic belief in the way that water “remembers” healing properties. Stephenson suggests our brains work similarly, saving what it needs to keep us going. Any self-centricity – and these sisters have plenty – is rooted in vulnerability. There are many themes to it which Sassy Mamas would relate to and enjoy seeing played out on stage!

London’s Evening Standard newspaper called The Memory of Water “A tragicomic tour de force about women on the verge of whoknows-what.” And the Guardian said “Shelagh Stephenson’s play is wise and witty… This knockabout family drama is also a delicate treatise on human nature.”

The six-member cast are Deborah Hoon, Krissy Jesudason, Victoria Mintey, Mark Seow, Susie Penrice Tyrie, and Sean Worrall. You’ve probably spotted some of them before on other stages around town and with other well known groups such as Singapore Repertory Theatre. But Wag the Dog promises to be something a little different and all of them are very excited to be coming together through the company to stage the show. They are also really energised both by what the future holds for the group, and also for the arts scene in Singapore! Check it out, mamas!

The Memory of Water opens on Friday, 30 June, 2017, and runs through 9 July at the Drama Centre Black Box. Wag the Dog Theatre is an artistic affiliate of Phenix Arts LTD. Purchase tickets through SISTIC.

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