Ashes

 

 

Play originally published by Pluto Press, 1975;

ISBN 0 86104 208 5. No longer in print.

Published also by Talon Books, Vancouver and Los Angeles, ISBN 0 88922 135 9.

American performing edition (with adapted language): Samuel French, Inc., New York and Hollywood, ISBN 0 573 60563 7.

 

Colin and Anne are having trouble conceiving. Trailing from doctor to specialist to consultant, they subject themselves to indignity as malfunctioning clinical objects. With their peer group, they suffer humiliation as sexual and social inadequates. They come to question themselves: why this blind compulsion to make a child? They discover disturbing drives within themselves. When a botched conception ends in miscarriage, and Anne loses her womb, Colin has to recognize his quest for manliness as a destructive force. Returning to his conflict-torn home country for a funeral, he is repudiated by his hard-line family for his softer politics; this, with his inability to further his line, makes him feel a tribal inadequate too. Finally, seeking to adopt, the couple are told that their local authority could not hope to find a child for whom they would be suitable as adoptive parents. Left alone with each other, amid bleak fields beneath a pitiless sky, they have to begin to learn to see their failure as a setting free.

Written 1972, and accurate to clinical and adoption procedures of the time. Commissioned by Charles Marowitz for his Open Space Theatre, its production was postponed, which is why the play surfaced first in German translation, Stadtteatr Malersaal, Hamburg, 1974. Many subsequent productions. 2 m. 2 f.

Though it moves from a documentary perspective into a sequence of sexual, social, political and existential perspectives, Ashes is of all my plays the one that has spoken most directly to the greatest number of men and women world-wide. It has come up against its measure of political difficulty too. In Belgium, this most Protestant-tempered piece was travestied by re-writing, emerging as an argument for the Roman Catholic church's teachings on contraception. In Hamburg, I was asked to change the ending so that the couple would indeed be offered a child by their local authority, but would lose confidence in themselves and refuse. I said that I would withdraw the play from production rather than give it such a paternalist twist. In England, critics had problems with Colin's Ulster journey - they couldn't relate it to the play's theme: they would have connected immediately if Colin had been a Rwandan, say, or a Serb... Israel and apartheid South Africa both understood it very well: in both countries, the play was removed from the stage by Interior Ministry intervention - the greatest honour any government has paid me.