Edinburgh Fringe 2015
A moving, poignant well acted play about a couple, one is Irish, the other Romanian – and what happens when they discover one of them loses their memory.
Ashes Afar is a new play by Andreea Borţun about emigration, what it’s like to choose to live in another country and what could happen to any of us. Aine and Mihail are arguing and Mihail is reticent to talk about what is making him sad and angry. Aine tries to coax it out of him, unsuccessfully. Aine and Mihail met a few years ago and they now are a couple. Aine suddenly stops remembering things and Mihail goes on a moving journey to remedy this by reenacting and repeating moments in their lives together.
The character of Aine is very well played by Crissy O’Donavan. She is realistic and stands her ground, raw with emotion but always real and believable in her Irish character, who moved to Romania. Mihail is a local man, a plumber and is well played by Liviu Romanescu, he’s moody, sensitive, and authentic. The set consists of one large upholstered armchair in yellow crushed velvet.
A present day with flashbacks crafting style is very effective in telling this story. Time is always clear and well delineated by a flourish of the armchair being turned on one leg. The play explores their present day lives and difficulties of low paying jobs, together with how one can lose one’s own self. Where is home? And more importantly, what does ‘home’ mean for each of them – is it the same place?
Memory is so fragile and triggers that make it thrive or curtail its growth often affect people randomly. In this play Aine’s personal struggle with her memory and her relationship with Mihail are told through warmth and humour. There is a creative chemistry between both actors, which makes it very compelling to watch. Both actors are completely invested in the characters and find humanity as they grapple with the ups and downs of the situation. Well directed by Bobi Pricop, the actors find their emotional arcs and the small black box space and large chair in the centre are imaginatively used.
An interesting line in the story is how Mihail feels that a war would benefit his situation, showing how desperate their lives have become – and it also forces them to consider going home, but where is home? The ending is very moving and although it does not resolve everything, it does, for now.