ARUNDEL FESTIVAL REVIEW: Ashes to Ashes, The Jailhouse, Arundel. Until Sunday, August 25

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This thought-provoking and often disturbing one-act play by Harold Pinter is sure to be one of the highlights of Arundel Festival for those who enjoy challenging theatre.

It’s one of those dramas which demands you put your own interpretation on the scenario which unfolds. All human emotion is on display as a deeply-disturbed couple lay bare a host of buried anguishes.

Kelvin, riddled with insecurity, attempts to force his partner Rebecca into revealing details of her former lover.

The complex plot weaves back and forth between past and present for the troubled woman. Was her erstwhile lover a high-ranking fascist capable of incredible brutality yet able to have a weird but in some ways tender relationship relationship with her? Was she a witness to unimaginable horrors, or a victim of the terrible atrocities he committed?

From her fragmented memories, is it possible that the darker side of that former lover’s character exercised a strange sexual fascination for her which she was unable to resist?

Kelvin (Collin Baxter) and Rebecca (former Coronation Street actress Pauline Fleming) play their parts to perfection, with an intensity that at times is almost frightening. For most of the play, her eerie stillness and haunting reminiscences are a compelling foil to his frustrated anger and determination to discover the truth.

Eventually her long-concealed grief erupts as the horrors of the past resurface and Kelvin reacts in a way which perhaps reveals his envy of the power for ex-lover once wielded over her.

Strong stuff and at times disturbing to watch, but the reaction of the audience at The Jailhouse was a tribute to how well Baxter and Fleming captured the essence of the characters they played. There wasn’t even a hint of a stifled cough or shuffling of feet – throughout the performance everyone was totally riveted as the couple effectively tore themselves apart.

Jo Rothery