Set in the plush surroundings of a room in the Merchants Hall, Ashes is like being a fly on the wall in a drawing room in somewhere like Edinburgh’s New Town. This is an original musical from Queen Margaret University on the outskirts of the capital.
The setting is Fifties Britain, post-war but largely pre-television. The main character is a wife with traumatic memories of the death of her parents who is bored at home while her errant husband travels around giving him freedom to have affairs.
The household duties are carried out by an Irish maid, but the gulf in class makes it difficult for them to enjoy each other’s company. A supportive brother is around, but despite his shoulder to cry on, the idea of leaving her husband needs courage in an era when divorce carried a social stigma. Anyway she is still in love with him and longs to recapture the early days of romance leading to their marriage.
This is an interesting production with the performance of Evolyn (Justine Hayes) crucial to its success. She rises to the challenge whether singing or acting particularly using pauses in the dialogue and her monologue to good effect. Claire the Maid (Sarah Connolly) also makes a telling contribution in her scenes with all the other characters. The best of the writing is in the female parts and perhaps that is an area that could be worked on.
The music is mainly a vehicle for dialogue, but credit to Fiona Teerlink for creating an original score with the off-stage ‘I lost my life’ sung by Lisa Watson the most melodic.
The symbolism of the dancers as "ashes" might have worked better in a larger stage area but writhing around on a deep pile carpet is probably not easy with the audience so close to the audience. It’s a thoughtful piece and the standard of performance good to excellent.
Runs to 30 Aug, 7.30pm