There is a theorem – Godwin’s Law – that suggests that, in any given argument, at some point things will inevitably degenerate to a comparison with Nazi Germany. Ashes to Ashes is the inevitable conclusion of this concept, with Rebecca (Terry Norton) emotionally unravelling before her partner Devlin (Mark Elderkin) as she recalls scenes of abuse that range from intimate partner violence to full-blown war atrocities.
Norton plays Rebecca, a woman haunted by a violent past – both her own and her wider society’s. While we may privately think Rebecca could use a (prescription) chill pill, there is something about her compulsive hoarding of individual and collective trauma, the troublingly intimate quiet violence of her interaction with Devlin and the seamless transition between her past and present, the personal and political that leaves a compellingly anxious space up for negotiation. Nothing makes sense, but neither one is able to break from the private game of desire and disgust, fact and fiction, insight and insanity that they are locked into.
Relationship trauma, political upheaval, social violence…all meld in an amalgamation of dis-ease that treads the fine line between dreamlike confusion and nightmareish clarity. This is an exploration of the burden – the childlike bundle – of collective trauma that we are all, to some extent, complicit in carrying.
Elderkin – who makes a welcome return to serious roles after a recent run of comedic performances – is cold, wry and quietly domineering. Norton’s relaxed delivery conveys a near-girlishness which is at masterful odds with the underlying intensity of her experience.
This ain’t one for light watching or easy accessibility, but it’s a meaty script that will stay with you long afterwards. DM
Ashes to Ashes – Terry Norton, Mark Elderkin, Gabriella Pinto (director). City Hall 3 on 25 September 15:00; 26 September 13h00, 27 September 12h00, 28 September 14h00 and 29 September 15h00. Tickets cost R70 and R60 (concessions).
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