A FRINGE show by one of Canada’s most celebrated playwrights is based on the shocking death of a teenager held in custody in the country.

The story of Ashley Smith reads like a barbaric tale from another age rather than a modern-day incident in a country popularly viewed as civilised and progressive.

In 2003, Smith, then aged just 14, was placed in a youth facility for one month after throwing apples at a postman. Placed in solitary confinement after displaying disruptive behaviour on her first day inside, Smith was to find that her initial one-month sentence would last four years, spent entirely in isolation, until her death in October 2007.

Held on suicide watch in Grand Valley Institution for Women, Ontario, Smith died despite being watched by guards given orders not to help the 19-year-old “until she turned blue”.

Following an inquest into her death, a coroner’s jury returned a verdict of homicide in December 2013.

Her story is told in Watching Glory Die, written by Judith Thompson, a multi-award-winning playwright whose work is regularly performed across Canada in French and English. Thompson’s three-hander sees slam poet Nathanya Barnett playing Glory, a 19-year-old arrested, like Ashley, for throwing apples at a postman.

Kelli Fox plays Glory’s adopted mother Rosellen while Kathryn Haggis, whose credits include My Big Fat Greek Wedding 1 and 2, is Gail, a correctional officer at the facility holding Glory.

“The guards were in a predicament,” says actor-director Kelly Daniels, producer of Watching Glory Die with Windsor Feminist Theatre, a non-profit company founded in 1980.

“Six of them watched while Ashley went blue. If they had disobeyed, they would have lost their job, their pensions, they wouldn’t be able to support their families.”

The order not to intervene had been given after Smith had found a desperate, highly disturbing way of getting the human contact she had been deprived of for four years.

Though her adoptive parents said the youngster had had a happy childhood, they noticed a marked change in her behaviour from around the age of 13.

She went on to be diagnosed with ADHD, learning and personality disorders and to appear before juvenile court multiple times.

Though Justin Trudeau’s Government has passed reforms following Smith’s death, Daniels says they’re not enough to deal with the impact of solitary confinement or “segregation” in the Canadian justice system.

“They even have another name for it: ‘therapeutic quiet’ – what a euphemism for something so destructive,” says Daniels, who notes an extensive cache of research materials on the company’s website.

“We want things to change even more,” she continues. “It’s not enough. Being isolated can destroy a person’s mental, physical and spiritual states of being.”

Daniels says that while Smith’s story may shock, it should be seen within the context of the experiences of other women in Canada.

While Watching Glory Die is performed at Assembly Rooms, Article 11 will present Deer Woman at CanadaHub at King’s Hall in the southside. The latter tells the story of a missing girl in a country where more than 1600 indigenous women and girls are officially recognised as being missing or murdered.

Until August 25 (not 7, 13 and 20), Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, 1.50pm, £13 and £14. Tel: 0131 623 3030. www.assemblyfestival.com www.windsorfeministtheatre.ca

Deer Woman: Until August 24 (except 5, 12 and 19), CanadaHub at King’s Hall, Edinburgh, 2.30pm, £11, £9 concs. Tel: 0131 560 1580.