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Ashes to Ashes/Footfalls (A Pinter/Beckett double bill) currently playing all of November, 2015!!!

Exiled Theatre


White Rhino review

Boston Arts Review

Quick Take Review By Beverly Creasey On Their Mettle

Exiled Theatre may be new on the scene but their Pinter/Beckett effort this month proves they’re a force to be reckoned with. We’d be lucky to have these exiles call Boston their home. ASHES TO ASHES and FOOTFALLS run through Nov. 28th at the Green Street Studios in Central Square, one block behind the Middle East.

Pinter acknowledged his debt to the older playwright: Both broke with conventional theater and embraced the existential notion that life has no “meaning.” Where Beckett sets his plays in a wasteland, Pinter uses a naturalistic context but his characters, like Beckett’s, are trapped in repeated dialogue and unexplained terror. The women in both ASHES TO ASHES and FOOTFALLS agonize over their suffering, fearing/knowing “it will never end.”

ASHES TO ASHES, deftly directed by James Wilkinson, places a proper British couple in a well appointed living room, having cocktails, perhaps before dinner, perhaps before lunch…perhaps….perhaps. She is telling him about a lover or is she? He seems to be patronizing her, not entirely believing her wild story about a lost baby in a bundle (which was borrowed by Edward Albee, by the way, as a “bumble”).

Being British and reserved, they cover their emotions with misdirection, as when the husband (we assume that’s who he is) chides the wife about using a “guilty” pen. “You don’t know where it’s been,” he says accusingly. She misdirects when she says her sister will never share a bed with her husband again. She isn’t talking about her brother-in law.

Perhaps she’s had an abortion or a miscarriage. Pinter doesn’t tell us. Instead he makes her a participant in the nazi atrocities of WWII, although she’s not old enough to have witnessed babies being snatched from their mother’s arms, not old enough to have been on the train to Auschwitz, not old enough for her baby to have been taken from her by a Nazi “tour guide.”

One thing is certain. Her guilt is relentless, her pain inconsolable. Pinter leaves it to us to piece together. Perhaps it’s she who will be spirited away by an ambulance. The husband coolly tells her there will be “a siren for you.” Stephen Cooper and Angela Gunn are both game actors, seamlessly trading off dominance and subservience as the play unfolds. Pinter hated the sentimentality of mainstream theater: Even though you don’t feel pity for either character, you do feel the dread.

Jewish Advocate Review

Jewish Allusions Abound In Rarely Seen Pinter Play

Harold Pinter was a modern master of ambiguous reference, even when alluding to the Holocaust. In fact, the late Jewish Nobel Prize winner (2008) never actually referred to the Nazis in his 1996 drama “Ashes to Ashes.” Still, images that evoke the horrors of the Shoah clearly pervade its tautly-written one act. The young Cambridgebased Exiled Theatre Company is now giving this rarely-staged play a powerfully haunting revival at Green Street Studios in a twoplay program including a Samuel Beckett one-act drama entitled “Footfalls.”

“Ashes to Ashes” bears a title that could be alluding to the crematoria of the Holocaust even as its two characters Rebecca and Devlin – both purportedly in their 40s and living in a university town outside London – speak of sharing a rhymed tune of the same name (one in which some people are described as the victims of women and others of liquor). If the latter seems more of a red herring than a telling reference, the reason may be that it does not account for Rebecca’s disturbing evocation of people walking into the sea with luggage and drowning. Pinter could easily be alluding to the luggage of European Jews sent to concentration camps and a kind of nightmare variation on Israelites entering the Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) even before the waters fully parted during the Exodus.

Could present-day Rebecca be a Jewess recalling the brutal experiences of European Jews in a manner not unlike the worldwide Passover Seder recall of the bondage of pre-Exodus Egypt? Perhaps Pinter is intimating here that all Jews are sensitized to the lessons of the Holocaust in ways that non- Jews like Devlin may not be. This may be the alarming message of an exchange in which Devlin (a name suggesting the Devil?) speaks of a single ending where Rebecca claims “We can only end again and again…” Are Rebecca and Devlin wife and husband, patient and therapist or potential victim and abuser? Are her images remembered from dreams or possibly induced through hypnosis? Could Pinter’s play be a mysteriously universal examination of troubling dreams and unresolved feelings of guilt?

Whatever their sources, her statements and responses demand attention. Beside the images of luggage and drowning Jews, Rebecca speaks of a former lover – whom she describes as a “quite high-up” travel guide – going to the local railway station, and babies being torn from the arms of their screaming mothers. Talking of a window in Dorset, she also sees guides ominously ushering people to the beach. While Hitler is never mentioned in the play, the German word ‘führer’ can refer to any guide as well as the murdering Nazi one. Factory work may allude to labor concentration camps, and Rebecca speaks of the alarming absence of bathrooms.

Significantly, Rebecca moves from speaking in the third person to acting as though she is experiencing some of the horrors she details. She vividly identifies with a mother whose bundling efforts are exposed by her baby’s cries. At the same time, Devlin may be a comfort to her at one moment and a mouth-covering and throatendangering menace at another. Is Rebecca to be seen as a victim or the cause of her own problems? At a time when some pundits seem to mitigate acts of violence as a response to poverty and unemployment, Rebecca’s experiences could serve as a welcome wake-up call to caring and inner strength.

Company co-founding director James Wilkinson carefully balances the tough stretches of banter between Rebecca and Devlin and the rich moments of silence that punctuate them. Angela Gunn captures Rebecca’s vulnerability as well as her candor. Stephen Cooper finds Devlin’s frustration and brief outrage while interrogating Rebecca. “Ashes to Ashes” has no easy retort to the brutalities of the Holocaust, but Exiled Theatre makes Pinter’s prescient insights truly resonate in the here and now.