Benet Catty Productions

The Ash Girl - Edinburgh 2012

Aug 15, 2012

Broadway Baby ***

You can’t knock the ambition of Pulse’s devised production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s The Ash Girl, a bizarre but occasionally touching re-incarnation of the Cinderella story with dreamscape, Freudian angst and the seven deadly sins added to the mix. Although not quite sustaining its runtime, one’s eyes and ears are constantly engaged and frequently delighted by the imagination of the approach.

The eponymous Ash Girl - played with touching vulnerability by Romy Wilkin - is having a nightmare following the death of her father, sparked by various troubles in her life. The ensemble, all in black (of course) and white-faced, variously bully and represent her - sometimes in a nightmarish forest of sins. At other times the Ugly Sisters are her tormentors in chief, in the Cinderella story that takes centre-stage primarily in the final third of the evening.

If you’re not a fan of hearing young actors enthusiastically impersonating chimps, crying, and shouting into the front row’s faces then you may want to approach all this with a certain caution. However, although the show ticks a fair number of the student devised theatre boxes that seasoned Fringe-goers may have seen a lot of (shadow play, choral breathing, crawling on the floor and the like), it does so with an elan that exceeds expectations. Aided by an impressively detailed lighting design by Laura Wakefield and Chesca Wylie, they create a constantly interesting series of stage pictures and, although not in the premiere league of Wertenbaker’s work, the dialogue contains some real gems.

The last twenty minutes are largely superfluous and the decision to go without a curtain call as if the play is The Diary of Anne Frank is a bad choice - but, although imperfect, The Ash Girl at its best can really catch fire.

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