The Thrill of Love at New Vic Theatre, Newcastle: Play reveals tragic life of last woman hanged
HER'S was one of the defining images of the 1950s. When Ruth Ellis was convicted of murdering her lover and subsequently sentenced to death, it gave fuel to the already growing public distaste for capital punishment.
Now a new play promises to look behind the headlines and at the tragic life of the last woman to be hanged in Britain.
The Thrill Of Love, penned by acclaimed playwright Amanda Whittington, premieres at the New Vic Theatre tonight.
Directed by former New Vic artistic associate James Dacre, it follows the story of Ruth – a divorcee with a young child with dreams of a film-star life who becomes obsessed with the wealthy and womanising David.
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Actress Faye Castlelow plays the part of Ruth, a nightclub hostess living and working in the seedy underworld of London.
"I think this is a story that everyone believes they know," says Faye.
"The facts are there and people immediately recognise her name.
"Everyone has their own opinion of her.
"I don't think people know how young she was or are particularly aware of her background.
"It was a very particular point and place in time, just as Soho was beginning to gain its reputation.
"Ruth was desperate to be a star. Like many working class girls who didn't have a lot of options or education, their power and their tools came from their looks.
"It was about being the next Marylin Monroe or Diana Dors, but being surrounded by the dark characters of that world – people with lots of cash to spend.
"But it was what you had to do for these men, to earn their affection.
"It's very much told from the women's point of view."
Faye is joined by a cast that includes Mark Meadows, Hilary Tones, Maya Wasowicz and Katie West.
"Rehearsals are going well and we've worked very hard," Faye continues. "Amanda did a huge amount of research.
"We see Ruth through the last couple of years of her life, up to the end.
"Amanda is looking at why and how she ended up where she did." Whittington's plays have included Be My Baby, (first produced by Soho Theatre in 1998 and subsequently staged by a number of theatres), Bollywood Jane, Ladies' Day and Satin n' Steel.
Amanda says: "I have always been interested in the stories of women and stories of injustice so naturally I was interested in the Ruth Ellis story.
"She was an East End hostess in a nightclub in the West End and this notorious criminal moment in her life changed everything.
"We know what she did, I wanted to know why she did it."
The Thrill of Love will be at the New Vic Theatre from tonight until Saturday, March 9. Tickets, which are priced from £12 to £21, are available by telephoning the New Vic box office on 01782 717962.