The Ash Girl: A fairytale for the times


Matthew Dimaandal

STANDING UP WITH COURAGE: Fairy in the Mirror junior Catie Jamieson (right) lifts Ashgirl senior Sofia Partridge (left) from the ground, encouraging her to believe in herself instead of looking to magic.

Ashley Lee, A&E Editor

“The Ash Girl,” a darker rendition of the classic Cinderella story by Timberlake Wertenbaker and directed by Rey Shankar at Northwood from March 22-25, told a story of Ashgirl (Sofie Partridge) who finds solace within the warmth of ashes in her fireplace. In contrast to the typical fairy tale story where happiness is defined by the looks of the prince the princess marries out of luck, this unconventional tale left a footprint in Northwood history despite its confusing moments.

The first act is centered around Ashgirl’s desire to go to the ball to meet the prince. She meets the Fairy in the Mirror (Catie Jamieson) who teaches her that an individual can ultimately determine their fate through their action through the process of preparing her for the ball. Meanwhile, Prince Amir (Ze Xi Isaac Lee) seems to have his own set of problems. Coming from a foreign land, he does not feel welcomed and grieves the loss of his father. Before Ashgirl and Prince Amir can be reunited after the ball, Ashgirl must confront her internal conflicts, portrayed by the Seven Deadly Sins who lurk in the background and tempt characters to commit sins. 

Along with the modernized storyline, the acting was remarkable, the most notable characters being Ashgirl with her monologue, Sadness (Aditi Sreenivas) with her echoing voice and the Fairy in the Mirror with her composed character. The chemistry of these three actresses in this dramatic scene was exceptional: the Fairy lovingly tells Ashgirl to choose her life and look for the hope within her heart while Sadness along with the other Seven Deadly Sins taunts Ashgirl by saying death is the peaceful alternative to life. 

Though this adaptation is more closely aligned with the original Brothers Grimm tale, there were also cheerful moments, such as the beautifully coordinated dance sequence between Ashgirl and Prince Amir. The most hopeful moment proved to be the split scene between Ashgirl and Prince Amir. After being forced to lie to her sisters that she did not attend the ball, Ashgirl holds onto the sliver of hope that the Prince still remembers her existence. On the other hand, Prince Amir looks around the entire country despite his mother’s (Sohani Pawan) belief that he will never find “the one.” The complete stillness of the other actors during each monologue heightened the emotion felt by the audience. 

Overall, the performance was remarkable, but the names and purpose of each Seven Deadly Sins were confusing, and the dialogue was difficult to understand when the actors spoke quickly. In scenes when these sins were shadowing characters in the forest or at Ashgirl’s home, it was unclear what each of their roles was and how the sin was impacted or changed in response to the character’s action.  

Besides the confusion from the aforementioned aspects, each scene was well-coordinated thanks to the technical team backstage. The swift movements were captured by the impeccable timing of the spotlights, and the unexpected but elegant orchestra score worked as an emotional transition between scenes. 

 In retrospect, “The Ash Girl” is a play that high school students can relate to, whether it be suffering from self-imposed isolation or fixating on insecurities, but Ashgirl and Prince Amir’s challenges reflect the struggles of standing up for one’s self or assimilating into a new community. The resilience in fighting the overbearing Sadness and the persistence in finding love despite familial reservations emphasized throughout the play reassured audience members that hope is still within reach if one has the courage to seek it.