REVIEW: (Fire) Embers (Ash)

Hailey Mashburn’s vivid and fascinating drama brings to life a little known part of history of World War II.

We tend to hear a lot about the male fighter pilots in World War II, but as this vivid drama highlights, women also played their part in the battle that took place in the skies.

Having originally been performed as a stage play in 2015, (Fire) Embers (Ash) has been reimagined as an audio drama and follows the fortunes of the first all-female aviation regiments to complete combat missions as seen through the eyes of several dynamic and courageous characters.

Written and directed by Hailey Mashburn, the drama is compelling to listen to as it delves deep into these women’s lives – their fears, hopes and dreams are all discussed while they take to the skies in the night to play their part in the war.

The characters who feature in (Fire) Embers (Ash) are all based on real life women and are proudly given new life in this detailed play that captures their spirits well. Known as “night witches” by the Germans, these women were intensely knowledgable and would do whatever it took to try and defeat the enemy.

Intelligently and richly written, it is worth closing your eyes to listen to as the characters are so brilliantly created you can literally see them in your mind as they discuss their lives before the war and why they signed up for this dangerous job. But equally, it is delicately emotional – captured in a heartfelt scene in which Yevgeniya Rudneva frustrated that she can’t sleep discusses her dreams of being an astrologer with her commander Marina Raskova. The level of detail of research that has gone into ensuring that these women are as faithfully represented as possible is impressive.

Meanwhile, the use of sound of sound effects is understated but effective – chillingly so when disastrous missions take place, highlighting just how dangerous being part of 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment, 587th Guards Bomber Aviation Regiment, and the 588th Night Bomber Aviation Regiment was.

While the play is only an hour long, you really feel as though you get to know each character really well thanks to the distinctive personalities provided for them by each of the cast members. Each performance is delivered with great earnestness and passion, again thanks to the writing which offers plenty of heartfelt lines that pack a punch. Lines such as “the only priority is survival” really brings home just how aware the women were of the chances of survival were from doing what they were doing. Grief also plays a powerful part in the language used to show the strength of character that was needed.

Powerful and filled with drama, at its core (Fire) Embers (Ash) is about the bond between women in hugely difficult and tragic circumstances. Bravery, courage and friendship all play a strong part in this compelling play.

A lovely tribute to the first female combat pilots, uncovered in an intimate way that suits the subject well, (Fire) Embers (Ash) is certainly worth listening to.

By Emma Clarendon

(Fire) Embers (Ash) is available to listen to for free here.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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