Theatrical storytelling never ceases to amaze me. Even when a device is used time and time again, the way a company harnesses it makes all the difference, and when they mash it up with other storytelling methods, you’re onto a winner. This is the case with Lecoq-trained Bric à Brac Theatre’s latest show Ash, on at The Aviary at Zoo this Edinburgh Fringe.
Ash follows the story of George Crozier, a man from Yorkshire who takes up smoking in his youth and doesn’t stop until the day he dies. The play plots his journey through life, and displays the effects that smoking has on him and his relationships, while plotting changes in how the tobacco industry advertises its products.
With an unusual subject matter, and a fear that the Yorkshire accents would descend into nothing more than stereotypes, I have to admit I was a little sceptical about Bric à Brac’s production. However, I’m very pleased to report that it’s a resounding success. The company cleverly weaves precise, fluid movement with live guitar and well-plotted scenes to produce something pretty special.
My favourite thing about Ash is the fact that all of its storytelling methods are balanced, which allows it to transcend any particular theatrical genre, and makes it accessible to all audience members as a result. Nothing here feels like it’s been thrown in for the sake of it; everything serves a purpose and strengthens the play’s poignant message.
There are some top-drawer performances here, too, particularly from Alice Devlin and Roxanne Browne as regulars at the pub George attends throughout his life. The Yorkshire accents are very well maintained, and the two create convincing characters to firmly buffet the sensitive performances of the rest of the cast. I’m only citing those two as examples – each member of this company firmly conveys some well-considered, well-developed characters. The levels of energy and the conviction towards movement and physicality are also highly enjoyable to watch.
A simple, potent scenography also makes an appearance in Ash, and is a real credit to the creative team. It’s refreshingly simple, with a lighting design that consists of a sombre-yet-warm palette of brooding oranges and contrasting cold washes adding a lovely visual aesthetic to the proceedings. Add in an equally refreshing blend of soundscapes and live guitar and you’ve got a production that is well-equipped to engage, entertain and leave a lasting impression.
My only criticism of this production is that scene structure and narrative progression could be slightly sharper on the whole to increase how we empathise with the characters. But Ash really is a powerful, highly enjoyable piece that displays some serious talent from a new and exciting company.
Ash is playing at The Aviary at Zoo until 19th August 19.