Ashes get dusted off classic fairytale
by Catherine Szabo
Many of us have tucked our books of fairytales up on some high shelf, and our well-loved Disney movies could use a good dusting. The cobwebs are being blown off at the end of this month, however, as Mount Royal University’s theatre department presents Ash Girl, described as a darker, twisted version of Cinderella.
The story follows Ash Girl as she goes to the ball, meets and loses her prince, and travels through a forest, where she encounters the seven deadly sins, all of which are personified as different animals.
“[The sins] affect each character’s life differently,” says Elysse Cheadle, who plays Ash Girl. “There’s also Sadness, which is sort of like an eighth sin, but really closely related to Ash Girl. [The sins] don’t interact physically with the people, but their presence influences them. It’s a struggle to free yourself from those sins and make the right choice.”
The Disney version focuses on the love aspect, says assistant director Valmai Goggin. The main character meets her prince and falls in love, but it is the less-discussed emotions that come to the front for Ash Girl.
“[It] focuses on the journey from [being] afraid — afraid of herself, afraid of the world around her, afraid to confront her demons — to facing up to that confrontation, going
through those trials and emerging as the princess, as her real self,” Goggin says.
Cheadle admits that off-stage, her real self isn’t very close to princess-like.
“It’s exciting: I’ve never really played this kind of role before,” she says. “I’ve never been a girly girl, so to be able to play this princess role is kind of fun. I’m channelling all that energy in me into this play because I’ve never done that [role] before.”
The director, Glenda Stirling, has a strong background in movement analysis, Goggin says, so Stirling’s choice of play wasn’t too surprising.
“There are human characters and there are also characters that are animals: there’s a snake, a fly and a bird,” says Goggin. “So the past couple of weeks have been about finding the physical quality and the physical relation between the characters.”
It has been challenging to learn to move the way Ash Girl would, Cheadle says. An exercise from Stirling – analyzing how the cast member moved in comparison to their character – helped immensely.
“It’s been a good learning experience for me as an actor to figure out how to find truth within this world that is so different from ours,” she adds.
It’s still a story that everyone can relate to, says Goggin, adding that finding the courage to tell our own stories is a universal challenge.
“That’s the struggle we all go through every day: to find who we are and how we relate to people,” she says. By no means is it a simple love story that will only interest women, she adds. “I think we should give guys credit,
that they can find truth in that story as well as the women in the audience,” says Goggin. “It’s a super physical, engaging and energetic show all around, so it’s not anything anyone will have to be dragged to on a date, let’s say that.”
Ash Girl opens on March 24 as a free preview for students, and then runs from March 25-27, March 30-31, and April 1-3.