I love The Ash Girl by Timberlake Wertenbaker. It is a wonderful play that just speaks to teenagers of all backgrounds, experiences and situations. As a play, it covers a multitude of different issues from immigration to parental expectations via self-image, loss and relationships (and a whole lot more besides). So there truly is something for everyone in the text. It is a challenge to perform, it has a huge cast and many of the roles cannot be multirolled very easily, there are also physical challenges in interpreting and physicalising the deadly sins and sadness (I love the fact that there is a physical embodiment of Sadness in the play – certainly my inner teenager is just screaming out saying “read this now, it is basically a metaphor for how I’m feeling right now!”) and then there see the animal characters to deal with as well.
However, I’ve never ever actually performed the play, for the biggest reason I love the play is it is so good to create new material from in Devised Performances. There is just so much room to build on to it, take bits from it and turn it into come thing else or to continue the story in some way.
I’ve got some Year 11 groups working with it at the moment,and they have come up with some brilliant ideas that I think are well worth sharing. For example one group has taken the characters of Amir and the influence of Pridefly as a starting point for a parade of the rise of Hitler. They have also been reading The Rise And Fall of Arturo Ui. That Amir, who comes to this country and hates it from the moment he arrives, is egged on my Pridefly to concentrate his efforts not on his new wife, Ash Girl, but on overcoming his oppression in this new country, take it over and become its leader, to fashion it in the mould of his old country. A lot of the text has been used but put into new contexts and built upon, for instance they’ve seen similarities between Prideflys speech and use of language to the the use of language in the speeches made by Hitler.
It is such a tremendous play to inspire and generate new ideas from and with the text. Like any ideas process, this is the culmination of many previous experiences, knowledge and influences, but the stimulus, The Ash Girl, is the spark of inspiration. And in The Ash ?Girl there is a lot of potentially awesome inspiration.
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