The Ass

The Ass adapted by Mike and Kate Westbrook, Riverside Theatre 1985

Notes from the original production by Roland Rees, 2011

This music theatre piece came to me happily through the artistic endeavours of jazz duo, Mike & Kate Westbrook. Being very interested in D.H.Lawrence they came with the devised music and words based on his poem, The Ass .We got Ariane Gastambide, the opera designer, to realise the set, which was a stage version of Taormina, Sicily where the Westbrooks had returned from, with story and music complete – it was all their idea, but they knew me to be a modern jazz lover and I took to it up¬†immediately. It was a thoroughly enjoyable rehearsal period with that fine actor Stephen Boxer playing the D. H. Lawrence character of the man, as ‘Ass’, after his eponymous poem. The set was a model of the townscape of Taormina, in miniature, at night, which lent the whole stage of the Riverside Studio a kind of magical scenario. Mike Westbrook played his own music , and conducted the actor musicians from the concert piano,( everyone played more than one instrument except for Steven , who as Lawrence, some of the time wore his ass’s head). Kate, who is also a good painter, sang the songs devised from the Lawrence poem. They performed much as if they were Sicilian jazzers , with squeeze-box ( accordion) , alto sax ( who¬† played his music through the mouth of the asses head he wore at one point). As well as violin, clarinet, penny whistle, Mike also played his tuba. Quoting Stephen Boxer: ‘everything from the show found its source in Lawrence’s poem.’

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