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Guest post from Amanda Campbell at The Way I See It Theatre Blog

click to enlarge Emily Forrest and Lesley Smith
  • Emily Forrest and Lesley Smith

The first play of my 22nd Annual Atlantic Fringe Festival was Emily Forrest’s play Ash, produced by Forerunner Playwright’s Theatre Company, which plays at the Pier 21 Museum- Bratty Hall until September 6th, 2012.

I actually saw an early production of Ash at Once Upon a Theatre Collective’s recent Evening of Short Plays and it is a ten minute gem of a piece centering on two sisters who have recently returned to their rural home from the city and are reeling from a recent traumatic event that culminated with the burning down of their barn.

The writing of this piece is especially strong. Although it is only ten minutes long the relationship between the sisters, Deidre and Margaret, feel rich with history, intimacy and complexity, as does the glimpse we get into their various interactions with the unseen characters of the mother, father and Margaret’s ex boyfriend. This play feels like it could be the last ten minutes of a 90 or 120 minute production; there are so many avenues that are alluded to and that Forrest makes me want to know more ardently and delve into far deeper. I especially love the way she has begun to play with memory, and the differences that emerge in the way the two sisters recall their shared childhood experiences. I think there is much more for Forrest to explore with these characters and I would love to see Ash expanded into a longer piece.

Lesley Smith joins Forrester onstage as Deidre and Margaret respectively and they have beautiful chemistry together. Smith plays Deidre very subtly, but with a deep melancholy in her wide expressive eyes. Forrester is more dramatic as Margaret, which raises the stakes of the play higher and makes me curious to know more about this girl who comes completely undone at the sight of her ex boyfriend and often speaks in a lofty, affected voice when reminiscing, suggesting something secret festering below the surface.

I love the creative use of space that director Keelin Jack used in the unique theatre, which is a part of Pier 21 that looks like a giant deck of a ship. It is transformed beautifully and so simply into the patio of the house, and I love when Smith hopped over the railing in speaking to the unseen ex boyfriend. Smith has a magical delivery of her lines to characters that remain off stage. They come to life for the audience through her eyes and the fact that we cannot hear their response never removes us from the intimacy and immediacy of the moment.

In all Ash is a sweet way to spend ten minutes of your day, and I think it has the beginnings of a really poignant full-length play.

Reprinted with permission from The Way I See It Theatre Blog

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