Review: (Fire) Embers (Ash), Hailey Mashburn
4.0Overall Score

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Audio and radio plays are always greatly underestimated. But oh, what a thrill and treat they are when you grasp hold of the opportunity to be immersed in the most wonderful recesses of your imagination and dive into a new world of storytelling.

(Fire) Embers (Ash) is an inviting and intimate piece that tells the story of the first all-female aviation regiment, who fought for the Soviet Union during World War II. Founded by Marina Raskova, this heroic team of pilots known as the “Night Witches” not only fought a war, but fought the expectations placed on women. With hand-me-down scraps of uniform and “unusable” planes, without radios, these women endured and conquered.

Light and tender in tone, we are encouraged to dim the lights, stay warm and turn the volume up to listen to our pilots share their thrills. There’s something about this delivery that reminds me of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: I feel like I’m learning, whilst sharing and reliving each moment of and adventure…“We embrace gravity like a long-lost lover”.

This is a war story from an exciting and rarely told perspective, this audio play feels fresh and compelling because war is not the main feature of the text – these women and their lives are.

Hailey Mashburn (Writer and Director) has crafted a text that is so beautiful and rich in imagery that I find myself rewinding several parts to listen and enjoy again. For example, as Rudneva, a Ukranian astronomer, explains her passion and fascination with the night sky she explains “Stars are all at once everything we know and everything we don’t, is there anything more beautiful than that?” Mashburn uses the stars as a clever theme and motif throughout the piece, to ensure that dreams, survival and existentialism coexist in equal parts in the lives and hearts of these women.

The script swings from moments of deep vulnerability and emotion, to scenes of extreme practicality and action. In a strikingly normal scene, the women are laughing and comparing love stories and I feel as though I’m joining my friends in conversation. Within a split second, the tone shifts and their fighting for their lives and losing comrades – the powerfully pitched reality of war.

Whilst (Fire) Embers (Ash) reflects on the Second World War, it still strikes a chord with the modern reality. The women question what happens next, how can they possibly go back to normality? Listening to this in the middle of a pandemic, I share those same questions and fears, but I’m grateful to not have the massive uncertainty of gender roles standing in the way of my future. However, what is clear is a desire that we all share – we want to experience all that we can from life, once all this is over.

(Fire) Embers (Ash) is available to stream online. For more information and to listen, go to (Fire) Embers (Ash)’s website