Ruth Ellis was the last woman to be hanged in Britain (in 1955) after being convicted of shooting her lover in cold blood. “The Thrill of Love” dramatises this infamous true story and takes a closer look at the story behind the headlines.
This was an excellent production from Beaufort Players. Presented in flash back in a “film noir” style, we meet Ellis as she carefully prepares to leave her flat with the sole aim of shooting her cheating lover, David Blakely. The play focuses on Ruth’s private life – her work in the London club scene; her volatile relationships; the domestic violence she experienced. We also meet three women she worked with – no-nonsense “gentleman’s club” owner, Sylvia; aspiring actress, Vickie; and charwoman, Doris. These friends provide comfort to her as she battles abusive lovers and then the rabid press.
We also meet Detective Jack Gale as he follows her story, trying to piece together the motive behind why she murdered Blakely and, more importantly, whom she might be protecting.
Kate Martin as blonde bombshell Ellis presented very well, giving a great range of emotions from high-flying club manager to abused victim.
Alan Robinson as Detective Gale was suitably severe, with a nice switch in character as he seemed to warm to Ellis and felt she was hiding the truth and did not deserve to hang. I liked his speeches to the audience as he tried to figure out what had happened.
This was a debut with Beaufort Players for Elene Hadjidaniel and it was an excellent one. Her role as club manager Sylvia was suitably down-to-earth and she demonstrated the ‘tough outside but soft inside’ character very well, with great stage presence.
Gemma Breakell had a nice role as poor Vickie, the naïve young girl who dreamed of being a star. She was suitably ‘ditzy’ and had good characterisation.
Doris was performed very nicely by Charlie Froomberg, a young woman trying to help her friends.
This fascinating story of how Ellis dreamed of Hollywood but ended up in Holloway highlights the warmth, bitchiness and complexities of female friendships at a time when women often end up the losers in a man's world.
The use of Billie Holiday as the soundtrack to Ruth's life is very effective. This is a story of obsession: Ruth's obsession with her playboy boyfriend, and the obsession of the Detective who knows she did it but wants to understand why. Toward the end there is a very intimate moment between them that is incredibly expressive.
The hanging of Ellis ultimately led to the abolition of the death penalty in Britain, but this was a touching and well performed production about a troubled woman whose life provides compelling dramatic material. A very well written play that needed a strong cast to carry it off, which they did very well. One audience member was moved to tears.
My congratulations to Director Krystyna Kobiak and the rest of the crew.