The Memory of Water

The Memory of Water

Winner of the Olivier Award for Best Comedy

Lyn Gardner avatar on Stagedoor
15 September 2021  ·  Follow on Stagedoor
“Once described as a play that puts the fun into funerals, Shelagh Stephenson’s comedy premiered at Hampstead Theatre 25 years ago and then transferred to the West End and Broadway. The set-up is familiar: three sisters gather in their cliff-top family home for their mother’s burial. But the ghosts won’t go away, and the skeletons are soon tumbling out of the closets as sibling rivalry, resentments and old wounds start to fester. Stephenson managed to make it fresh and funny and director Alice Hamilton should be well up to the task of finding the balancing act between the macabrely funny and the seriously painful. Maybe don’t take your sister.”


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.

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.

Critic reviews

Desperate remedies: Brendan Macdonald writes on Alice Hamilton’s revival of Shelagh Stephenson’s comedy-drama that explores memory and family.


An exceptional performance

· A Younger Theatre

Remains poignant

· Broadway World

25 years on, this nuanced portrayal of grief still feels fresh

· The Independent

A fine balance between sadness, anger and comedy

· The Times

The writing is still sharp, funny and well observed

· The Upcoming

There are laughs aplenty

· WhatsOnStage

Uneasy tragi-comedy

· The Arts Desk

Maintains manic energy levels throughout

· The Stage

How not to behave upon losing a parent

· The Guardian

A damp squib of a show

· Londonist

Return of a domestic drama that’s sadly easy to forget

· The Telegraph

A revival that hasn’t aged well

· Evening Standard


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Date & time

Show ended
Fri 3 Sep, 2021 - Sat 16 Oct, 2021
2.30pm & 7.30pm


Eton Avenue, Swiss Cottage NW3 3EU London, UK · Get Directions
Photo by Helen Murray
Photo by Helen Murray
Photo by Helen Murray
Photo by Helen Murray
Photo by Helen Murray
Photo by Helen Murray
Photo by Helen Murray
out of 5 stars
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