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Ashes – a review

Stefan Erasmus and Jason Jacobs in Ashes. Image – http://alexanderbar.co.za/show/Ashes/

What came first? The staging or the script. Do the two work together? Do they happen over time as they bleed into each other. These are questions as old as theatre itself, and probably with reasonable answers, and I couldn’t help but wonder while watching Ashes.

Deprecation aside, this review wont do anything to sway ticket sales for this play in its final week at the theatre at Alexander Bar in Cape Town. But good art must be appreciated where it can.

But back to the stage. Small – very small – restricting and inescapable. When the actors looked at me, I felt like they were actually looking at me and connecting, indicting and pleading; not merely looking through me as actors are supposed to.

Their performances grab you by the throat. When they break down, you will want to run up and hold them and say “It’s going to be ok” even though you knows it’s really not.

Ashes tells the story of two queer brown boys in Cape Town – a description that belies the depth of the story. These levels of depth felt while watching the two actors, Stefan Erasmus and Jason Jacobs’s characters dance around each other is breath taking.

They flit in and out of various characters, chipping away until the nuances in the archetypes are revealed. A flick of a jersey transforms a young man into a judgmental woman; a hoodie turns the other young man into his homophobic bully. The supporting characters all float around the main two, who interact with each other only briefly, letting the audience in on their tender moments – intimate, honest and gut wrenching, as we are driven to the conclusion, which was obvious but still impactful.

The mostly epistolary (letter writing) style works well, as the characters tell their stories without reaction from other characters. But the only downside I could find, which still works in its own way, was the crutch of exposition. Parents and son tell of his coming out story, and the conversation about what to call each other – boyfriends, lovers, partners? Forced, but still necessary. By virtue of its existence, queer work is still revolutionary, but somehow still new, therefore nothing can be taken for granted.

Don’t let the words queer and brown throw you off. It’s a story that many can relate to – the two lovers meet by chance in the city. One a small town buy. Forces work against them and their ghostly worlds are torn apart. The notion of love, not as obvious as in other works, binds the characters, but hardly ever at the same time.

I went in not knowing what the play was about other than the risky epithet of “gay play”, and was taken aback by the devastating account.

The audience was small, a lot less than the already small theatre at Alexander Bar could hold, which led me to believe that this was a play that was not being seen by as many people as it should.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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