Taking the Waters is a show about three sisters, as two take care of the third in her final days before passing. It’s a delicate show that avoids tropes, instead embracing the mundane: putting the kettle on, folding the washing. The days represented that ebb and flow feel more like holding breath – that state of bedside vigil where those passing are still alive, still there, and yet barely there at all.
Cancer is an insidious disease partly because it is so often ferocious in robbing people of their physicality and personality. Indeed, it’s a poignant metaphor in representing the dying sister as a literal puppet in a moving opening scene, then throughout the remainder of the show as a shadow.
The show doesn’t so much offer moments of levity, but there are moments of wonder. The wind blowing the small curtain in the kitchen is mirrored in the unseen room when the sister lies. The shadow play is extraordinary, at times travelling inside her body, but also her mind.
Whether it’s bones or spiders, everything is under siege, until Suzannah Espie plays or sings. We then see the pain fall away for a short time, long enough to explore better memories, recalling golden summers with the three of them as young children, seemingly immutable, playing in the bush or at the beach.
Espie and Fiona Macleod give strong and truthful performances as sisters. They are joined by Tamara Rewse, playing a palliative care nurse in a lovely performance that at first is almost about not being present (coming and going without even stopping for tea) until it absolutely needs to be.
A meditation on forgiveness and farewells, Taking the Waters is a beautiful show that shouldn’t be missed.
Taking the Waters
Studio 1 – Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre, 189 High Street, Northcote
Performance: Thursday 21 November 2019 – 8.00pm
Season continues to 30 November 2019
For more information, visit: www.lemonys.net.au for details.
Image: Taking the Waters – photo by Sarah Walker
Review: David Collins