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The Mortal Ash

The Mortal Ash is set in South Yorkshire sometime in the 1990s, and follows the lives of ordinary people living on a council estate. The Wheatley family are the victims of an accident, which has changed their lives…

Published on October 16th 2006.


The Mortal Ash
By Richard Cameron

The Mortal Ash is set in South Yorkshire sometime in the 1990s, and follows the lives of ordinary people living on a council estate. The Wheatley family are the victims of an accident, which has changed their lives. Bitterness and warfare of the internecine variety is familiar everyday stuff to most of us.

The events leave grieving parents and a dead child within a community which is both unforgiving and anxious to apportion blame anywhere but within themselves. The play explores the feelings, the emotions, the idealism and principles which motivate and de-motivate individual family members.

A play in which adolescence, youth and wearying age struggle to find a way of coming to terms with events which have so damaged all their lives.

The “Mortal Ash” is the local beauty spot where people have gathered to fish, have picnics and relax over the years. It is the location which has blighted the lives of the Wheatleys forever.

The play is intense and insightful. It provokes much thought and engages one’s attention from the outset. Richard Cameron manages to involve the theatregoer completely in events as they unfold. He does this naturally in a story of everyman.

The play is impeccably realised by a terrific cast who engage your interest and involvement from the beginning. It is a marvellous team effort which pays enormous dividends in helping us relate to the families’ differing missions.

The latter part of the play is dominated by a towering performance by Paul McCleary as Tom Wheatley. His search is worth the price of admission. But sharing such a search, evaluating his justification and watching his acrobatic self analysis provide this evening with many fundamental questions.

The support from the cast is admirable. If the strongest part of a chain is its weakest link, this is the strongest chain I have seen in local theatre this year.

Thoughtfully directed by Robin Herford the story unfolds by nuance and understatement to engage the audience totally in unhappy dilemmas, arguments and a search for some solace. It is beautifully done.

The Oldham Coliseum is a marvellous theatre. A community operation working seamlessly in the midst of a town that even boasts the wonderful “Alf’s Rooftop Balti Palace” within 100 yards of this hive of innovativeness. What a wonderful piece of work is Oldham.

The play has some comedy, mainly black , but is an evening which is thought provoking and should not be missed. A night which reminds one of the issues which theatre at its best can bring to the fore in a dynamic and enthralling way.

Seeing ‘ The Mortal Ash’ is a must – please do so during the next fourteen days.

Richard Burbage

Oldham Coliseum Theatre
Box Office 0161 624 2829
www.coliseum.org.uk
until 28th October 2006.

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