Ash Land

CAVEAT (and a rather embarrassing one, too): I actually dozed off at a couple of points during the show – not in any way out of boredom or disinterest, but I’d opened my own show earlier that afternoon and seen shows in just about every slot in between – I was wiped. So, yes, I almost certainly missed a few key points.

DESCRIPTION: The creators of Red Resurrected and Ballad of the Pale Fisherman present a desert Cinderella, scored by a slide guitar. Where bones bake in the sun and water is precious, a motherless child finds her identity.

I generally try to avoid the bestselling shows at Fringe – it’s far more exciting for me to try to discover something new, rather than join the zeitgeist – but I’d missed their last two shows, which were pretty widely hailed as genius.

The presenting schtick here is that this is an almost entirely propless, setless show – the performers themselves rely on their extensive movement backgrounds to create the world, from waves of grain to drops of rain, cars, buildings, sand and bone. It’s impressive and arresting, and if it carries with it a deeper idea, it’s that we’re a species defined by the environments we inhabit – the characters seamlessly drift into and out of their own scenery. (It does make me feel like the world of the city folk was a bit of a missed opportunity – I think there was much more that could have been done to set them apart from the farmers who comprised the central cast.)

I do wish that all of that skill had been put at the service of a story that ran more to my tastes. This is melodrama: pure, old-school melodrama, with its heightened emotions and broad gestures. The setting was compelling, and I’m a real sucker for daughter/father relationships, but ultimately it’s broad strokes, painted with raw emotion, more striking and startling than deep.

I walked away with intense technical admiration, at every level: for the acting, for the music, for the movement – but without the matching level of emotional/intellectual response that I was hoping for, or that, judging by my observations, the rest of the audience around me was experiencing. I didn’t fall in love, this time around – but I’m definitely prepped for a second date.

Questions? Comments? Enraged invective? Check out my answers to occasionally asked questions in Notes on Notes, or the contact info linked from that page!


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