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Theatre Review: The Thrill of Love

27 October 17 words: Matthew Smith

Murder entwines with love in this dark drama.

Love: a difficult thing to understand. Despite being a supposedly natural feeling, it is still almost impossible to explain to others. An individual feels it whenever and however they do. So we all know it exists, but love is still unique to the individual. That’s not to say that, as a race, we’re completely incapable of understanding what another may be going through in terms of love. That’s what makes it the perfect subject matter for music and fiction. However, Amanda Whittington has dramatized the true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain for murdering her lover David Blakely. The Thrill of Love is a dark, twisted, and, at parts, unsettlingly comedic play that explores Ruth’s life, motives, and conviction.

Ruth finds work in a gentleman’s club, owned by tough-as-nails manager Sylvia. Ruth befriends some of the staff, Vickie and Doris, and with relative ease. Ruth is an incredibly charming, witty, and caring individual. Wonderfully well-spoken and clearly well-educated as she frequently calls people up on their grammatical errors; a particularly poignant way of highlighting that post-war mid 50s in Britain was an immensely difficult time for everyone.

The opening scene is Ruth murdering Blakely and confessing as articulately as she can to Detective Inspector Gale. The story jumps between past and present as Gale questions Ruth on her motive. This mystery is not so much a whodunit, but more of a why-do-it.

Kareena Sims, the actress who played Ruth, was wonderful. She performed the role of a murderer and yet made her so likable, courageous, and made her audience sympathise with her throughout. Closely followed by the other members of the cast, Jemma Froggitt, as Sylvia, doing particularly well at keeping her emotions bottled up along with the rest of her liquor which Ruth relentlessly drinks through to numb the pains caused by her love affairs, both figuratively and literally.

It is a very slick, dark, and intimate production enhanced by having a very small stage with the audience sat very close to the action in a semi-circle. Further enhanced with the minimal set and the clever way that a different setting could be symbolised by simply having a different coloured tablecloth in an otherwise very similar looking space. It gave the feeling of seamlessness throughout the performance which mirrored the emotionally complex changes that the characters went through.

A strong effort from The Lace Market Theatre producing a harrowing but true story from history that is all too easily lost by a younger generation.

The Thrill of Love was at the Lace Market Theatre on Tuesday 24 October 2017.

Lace Market Theatre website

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