Tuesday, 24 October 2017

"The Thrill Of Love" by Amanda Whittington
Nottingham Lace Market Theatre.
Ruth Ellis (Kareena Sims) was the last woman to be hanged in Britain in 1955 after being convicted of shooting her lover, David Blakely. The Thrill of Love dramatises this infamous true story and takes a closer look at the women behind the headlines.
Ruth was a divorcee with a young child to care for, She worked in the kind of nightclubs where there’s more than just a drink on offer, but the girls work hard, play hard and dream of a movie-star life.
Then she meets the wealthy, womanising David, a racing driver with whom she becomes obsessed. She also begins seeing Desmond Cussen, a man driven mad with jealousy by her tempestuous and often violent relationship with David.
The play focuses on Ruth’s life, as well as her friendship with three women all working the club scene: club owner, Sylvia (Jemma Froggitt), aspiring actor and model, Vickie (Charlie Bailey) and charwoman, Doris (Rosina Reading). These friends provide comfort and nursing as she battles abusive lovers and the press.
Meanwhile, Detective John (Jack) Gale (Fraser Wanless) follows her story from the beginning, hoping to piece together the motive behind why she murdered David, and who provided the gun she used to shoot him with.
Casting judgement on Ellis was Colin Treliving as the judge, a role that in some versions of the play isn't utilised.
Amanda Whittington's writing is beautifully researched and, as with all of her plays, is written from a woman's point of view especially for female actors, for everyone to enjoy.
The acting and the accents are perfect and differentiates the classses of the characters wonderfully. And while this story may at first be envisaged as quite dark, given the subject matter, there are many comedic moments, and the lines are delivered with a natural throw away style, in the way that you'd make an off the cuff remark within any normal conversation. What I'm trying to say is that none of this play comes across as staged and the naturalness shines through from all.
There's a feeling of film noir, especially in the flashback sections with Gale, and this is helped by the lighting from Philip Hogarth which created that special 1950'd movie atmosphere.
We were advised at the start that the play would begin in nine seconds which i thought was a bit weird, but put dismissed it, but later in the play nine seconds would be mentioned again. This reference at the start and later in the play gives you some sort of perspective for the second reference, which I won't give away, but a very clever touch.
What i also loved were all the little things throughout the play which shows the attention to detail for the period in the props (Holly Coleman),The pill box that Ruth had, the old HMV record label, the record player, Ruth's painful looking bruises, the brilliant costumes (Jane Herring), and the music.
The projection of the old Pathe news reel reporting about the trial added that certain bit of historical magic to the piece (Matthew Allcock). If only they taught history in schools in the same way as this play was presented.
The soundtrack of this play is Billie Holiday all the way through, and being a fan of Lady Day, this drew me in even more. Just listen to the choices of the tracks and they tell the story as well as the actors and the writing, "Guilty", "My Man", "Taint Nobody's Business", "God Bless The Child", every song paints a picture. It's as if the songs were written to tell Ruth's story.
Director John Anthony has done a wonderful job. You are drawn in to the story behind the woman, her hurt, her abuse, both physical and mental, but still keeps that little unanswered mystery of who provided the trigger that Ruth pulled, which led to her being the last woman to be hanged in Britain. No wonder there was so much empathy for this fiercely independent woman whose weakness was just wanting to be loved.
Being in the intimate upstairs performance space, you could see every facial expression from every actor.You could feel everything that they were conveying about their character, something that may be missed on a larger set, which was designed by Keith Parkinson.
Being a smaller space also means that the sound quality is very good. You could hear every word from the lyrics of the songs and the sound effects gave the effect of coming from outside the main arena, putting you right in the centre of the action at all times. Jack Harris is the man behind this aural clarity.
The actors us several entrance doors into the performance area, which is well stage managed by Julian Phillips, making an interesting and "on your toes" viewing experience for the audience.
You'll be completely enveloped by this fascinating play and the beautifully written characters and story. The passion in this play, and for this play is evident.
"The Thrill Of Love" looks set to be another sold out week for the Lace Market Theatre, I understand that there may be a few tickets left up until Saturday 28 October 2017, but once word gets about as to how good tonight was, you may not want to leave it to chance.
Another excellent production in an excellent 2017 season.

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