Ashes to Ashes & One for the Road

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

07/09/2006 - 24/09/2006

Production Details

By Harold Pinter
Directed by Eero Suojanen

2005 Nobel Prize winner, Harold Pinter‘s play Ashes to Ashes will have its New Zealand premiere at the Maidment Studio on 7 September.

Directed by Eero Suojanen, this disarming and powerful play is Pinter’s most personal. An English Jew, born in 1930, Pinter grew up during WWII and was a conscientious objector during the Cold War. His inspirational source for Ashes to Ashes came from reading My Battle with the Truth, a biography of Hitler’s architect, Albert Speer – an educated man who closed his eyes to the genocide of 6 million Jews.

In Ashes to Ashes Rebecca (Rachel Nash) and Devlin (Michael Lawrence) are a married, middle-aged couple living in the south of England. One night, Rebecca tells him about her ex-lover; a man who adored her and who used to take her to distant places.

Faced with Devlin’s jealousy, the fond recollections of her past relationship slowly turn into haunting memories of frozen cities and crowded platforms, her ex-lover among them. Without a warning, the darkest chapter of European history becomes present.

Ashes to Ashes will be teamed with One for the Road in a double bill of two of Pinter’s most explicitly political plays. Both are relevant to any country that has experiences of human rights issues. They have been performed in Canada, Australia, Spain, Italy, Ireland, the USA, South America and South East Asia.

One for the Road is a character portrait of Nicolas, a head of intelligence agency in an unknown totalitarian state, who has one paramount purpose in life: to keep the world clean for God. Subversives, agitators, dissidents, whistleblowers and other scum, they’re all on The List. However, for “hard cases” like Victor and his family, Nicolas has special treatment.

Accused sometimes of retreating into private worlds, Pinter expresses his sense of moral outrage at the abuse of human rights with pungent, political plays. One for the Road was written in angry response to Pinter meeting two intelligent Turkish women who seemed indifferent to the use of torture in their country, thus ending three year’s of painful writer’s block.

In light of testimonies from the victims of torture, flights and the recent extrajudicial deportation of Rayed Ali (“a terrorist suspect”) out of New Zealand to Saudi Arabia (a country well known for human rights violations), One for the Road is becoming an increasingly precise and alarming analysis of oppression in modern society.

As poignant now as when it was first penned in 1984, One for the Road is brought to life by actors David Aston (Nicolas), Rachelle Duncan (Gila), Henry Mackenzie (Victor) and Keanu Allonby (Nicky).

Although Pinter is usually related to the Theatre of the Absurd (together with Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco), this pairing of Ashes to Ashes and One for the Road will clarify what Pinter has been saying throughout his career about the universality of the fascist instinct: There is no us and them, the real enemy is inside us all.

The pairing of these two consequential works is significant not just for their historical links to WWII, but also because of the multi-cultural and timeless nature of human rights issues. Director Suojanen says, “I am interested in plays which resonate with modern society, but are grounded in historical events. These plays are not only poetic and moving; their reference to the Holocaust reminds us to remain eternally vigilant against fascism and hatred, fostering tolerance and compassion in their stead.”

Their remarkable reach of Ashes to Ashes and One for the Road through our history and into our collective consciousness expresses the multi-cultural and timeless nature of human rights issues. Suojanen says, “In terms of human rights issues, we are currently under a global state of emergency. These two plays are a wake-up call, an essence of what those issues are about.’

One for the Road
“A terrifying brilliantly controlled piece, which distils the rage that inspired it into a flawless, richly resonant miniature masterpiece.” – Charles Spencer, The Daily Telegraph

EVENT: Ashes to Ashes and One for the Road by Harold Pinter
DATES: 7th-24th of September, 2006
TIMES: Tue-Sat 7.30pm, Sun 4pm
LOCATION: Maidment Studio, Auckland
BOOKINGS: (09) 308 2383 /
$30 (Adults) / $25 (Groups 5+, Seniors) / $20 (FT Students, Beneficiaries & groups below) / $10 (Children 14 and under) / $25 (Matinees)
• Writers Guild
• Screen Writers Guild
• Playmarket Playwright Members
• Actor’s Equity
• University of Auckland Staff & Alumni

For bookings contact:
Maidment Theatre – (09) 308 2383 /

As part of the season, theatre company Assembly Point Productions is also working with the March of the Living NZ to raise funds for their 2007 program. The March of the Living is an international educational program that brings Jewish teens from all over the world to Poland on Holocaust Memorial Day, to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built during WWII.

David Aston (Nicolas)
Rachelle Duncan (Gila)
Henry Mackenzie (Victor)
Keanu Allonby (Nicky)

Michael Lawrence (Devlin)
Rachel Nash (Rebecca)

Lighting Design - Nik Janiurek
Stage Manager/Operator - Dale Taylor
Technical Assistance - David Robb
Publicity - Gina Dellabarca
Publicity Photos - Nurhan Qehaia
Graphic Design - karkar

Theatre ,

Brutal truth rewarding

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 10th Sep 2006

Harold Pinter. I’d forgotten how affecting his well-chosen words could be. While to the uninitiated, a Pinter play can be difficult to digest (in that there is often no clear exposition such as where, when, who and why), any chance to see this playwright’s work done well, is highly recommended. These two short plays provide double the opportunity.

Assembly Point Productions have made an excellent choice in juxtaposing these two works. One For The Road is a timeless political reminder of the cruelty of oppression and Ashes To Ashes, though seemingly personal in nature at the outset, as a married woman reminisces about a past lover, becomes a subtle ambush of harrowing memories of the Holocaust.

Director Eero Suojanen has tempered both with a strong cast, minimal intrusion, and a few well-chosen moments for mood lighting and change.

One for the Road leaves a lasting prompt: no matter what the issue, passion, fervour or rule of any nation at any point in history may have been, or may be now, despotic, brutal, totalitarian leadership has no place in any civilized country. This production captures that from the outset. A menacing unsettling rumble in the dark sets the tone, then stark white down light interrogates the uninviting sterile set. (Lighting design Nik Janiurek, technical assistance David Robb.)

David Aston leads One For the Road supremely well, and is in total charge as Nicolas: detached, calculated yet charming. His brutal grilling is dotted with idle conversation and incidental chat as he plays with his exhausted victim.

Ashton is ably supported by Henry Mackenzie as Victor. Though in terms of actual script, he is armed only with the power of silence for the vast majority of the play, Mackenzie is convincing and moving. Rochelle Duncan as his wife, Gila, gives a focussed, intense performance. Young Keanu Allonby does well playing 7-year-old Nicky, coping admirably for one so young, with Nicolas’s over bearing questioning.

The beauty of Pinter’s unwillingness to label exactly where and when One For the Road takes place is that the message be related to any wider political context. One can also recognise the inherent desire to control and dictate that is. to some degree, in all of us.

In complete contrast, Ashes To Ashes opens with warm lighting and the appearance of domestic comfort.

Though Rachel Nash and Michael Lawrence have some fine moments as husband and wife, in particular towards the end, it is Nash who shines, as she tells Rebecca’s story, with expert stillness, to great emotional affect.

The light slowly fades as she unravels her horrendous memories and brings us to a tearful, heartfelt, tormenting end. Pinter simply pulls you apart through her final line, as he encapsulates the essence of the holocaust with a single image, spoken merely as fact.

In the publication of his first play, The Room, written in 1957, Pinter wrote in the introduction he had a "hatred of definitive labels". If you come to these productions in that frame of mind, you’ll take away the true essence of what each seeks to reveal. It is brutal in the telling (especially if you are a parent), but rewarding.


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