Last night was my first visit to the Caxton Theatre Grimsby for the opening night of the compelling play by Amanda Whittington about Ruth Ellis, the last ever woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom in the 1950’s.
It’s not a subject I know, or have thought much about, but as the play unfolded, I could actually feel the trauma and pain that Ruth was going through in her life the years and months prior to the event leading to her final demise.
Ruth Ellis was played beautifully by Chloey Rose, and we saw her initially portrayed as a glamorous, sophisticated nightclub hostess and model, clearly loving the camera and enjoying the attention of men and the celebrity lifestyle. Through the range of her relationships, some more destructive than others, we see Ruth change as the psychological drama continued and we see Ruth struggling to cope with life. Still showing her strength in public including during the final scenes; but we see more of her vulnerability and inner child coming through when alone. Through Chloey’s portrayal of Ruth, we saw the whole range of emotions, including her inner strength and confidence as well as the vulnerable emotion; a wonderfully immersive performance throughout.
Nightclub manageress, Sylvia Shaw, played by Marie Barker, saw Ruth’s style and potential and genuinely believed in the possibilities for her future. Sylvia supported Ruth, and gave her opportunities; she knew that Ruth was vulnerable, and warned her against getting involved in relationships but Ruth was headstrong and went her own way anyway. During the final meeting of Sylvia and Ruth, we could really see the raw emotion, which up to that point had been well controlled and hidden by Sylvia, creep to the surface as she promised she’d meet her again, but realising that was never going to happen… Sylvia turned and walked away, clearly very distraught.
Vickie Martin (Louise Blakey) burst onto the stage, socially confident and extrovert, she knew she wanted to make it in the celebrity world of London, and wound Sylvia round her little finger, blagging a job, a room and making friends with Ruth. we see the pair have fun, enjoying the lifestyle but unfortunately for Vickie, the life in London was short lived… Louise brought the character to life, her infectious smile and outgoing character lighting up the stage.
The play, wonderfully narrated in a very distinct style, by Detective Inspector Jack Gale played by Ruairidh Greig. Throughout the performance, the DI explains the events of the story as they unravel, sometimes interacting with the characters, but often just speaking to the audience from the sidelines in an intimate style. He showed his strength as a detective, yet when speaking with Ruth privately, you could feel his compassion, striving to get to the bottom of the story, not just believing what he had been told or had seen…
The ‘charlady’ of the nightclub Doris Judd, played by Claire Wright, was the voice of reason for the group of women when out and about, making decisions and taking Ruth under her wing. She was Ruth’s mother figure, showing comfort and care and was there for he when she was most vulnerable and needed her most.
I was thoroughly drawn into the set which was extremely simplistic but very effective. We moved from club to bedroom to court with the stage lights highlighting the area of focus for the audience attention. I was amazed that simple effects could have such an impact that portrayed the emotion of the scene. Any more and it would have detracted from the events happening on stage. The costumes were wonderful, from beautifully fitting, colourful dresses, to astrakhan and fur coats, gloriously reminiscent of the 50’s. Congratulations to all the set, lighting, costume and back stage crew, a great job.
Praise indeed to Director, Cathy Bennett-Ryan for her the vision and bringing this story to the stage in such compelling style.
As Cathy says in the programme;
“We have, legally, moved on and Ruth’s fate could not happen to anyone today. There are still however many people suffering abuse from a partner and death is in some cases the result. A play to ponder on?”
Absolutely, the relationships between such a group of women in a world that was at the time, dominated by men, was intriguing, and definitely got me wanting to know more about Ruth and what compelled her to do what she did.
The play runs until 27th January at the Caxton Theatre, Cleethorpe Road, Grimsby.
There is limited availability on Monday, Friday and Saturday.
Saturday performances – all seats £8.50
Monday to Friday performances – all seats* £8.00
*Concessions available Monday performance only – £7.00 (Senior citizens, jobseeker’s and students)
Buy 10 get 1 free for tickets bought for the same night’s production, not available online, please contact ticket offices for this offer
Tickets are available from Tourist Information Centres situated at The Fishing Heritage Centre and Cleethorpes Library where you can either book tickets over the phone or pick them up in person. Alternatively you could contact the Box Office on the night of a performance after 6.45pm to book for future performances or check availability for that week’s production.
Tickets for future performances can also be bought during the interval.
****Please Note, there is a NO REFUND policy on our ticket sales****
Tourist Information (01472) 323111
Fishing Heritage Centre
Caxton Box Office (01472) 345167