The Thrill of Love – Review – Leeds Carriageworks
By @Steve Crabtree, October 2017
I always enjoy going to a theatre I’ve never visited before; and after arriving at the Carriageworks, Leeds we head to the Studio on the top floor. There, we find a small and very intimate section of theatre that you don’t quite expect.
Tonight, we’re here to see a dramatisation of the true story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, after murdering her lover, David Blakely. It’s nearly a full house here tonight, and Leeds theatre group Cosmopolitan Players make up the cast as we find ourselves in the setting of Detective Inspector Jack Hunt’s living room, a gentleman’s club and a ladies bedroom.
Ellis, played by Stacey Waterworth is first to enter the stage, scantily clad in a clear indication of her lady-of-the-night status, before slipping on her clothes, pulling out a revolver and shooting Blakely twice. At least twice… It sets the scene, before Jack Gale narrates proceedings throughout his mission to find out exactly what happened in this not-too-clear case.
We’re in the mid 1950s, and there’s a gritty, very British element to the play. Alcohol, popularity and jealousy are key themes as this story becomes an enthralling one, with each scene very stark and hard hitting. We’re introduced to Ellis’s boss and gentleman’s club manager Sylvia Shaw (Carolynn Dickinson), a stern woman who shows plenty of love and loyalty to Ellis in her own way.
It’s a very tense story, raising few laughs. Ellis’ friend Vickie Martin (Kristina Fielding) comes in to add rags to riches glamour, and char lady Doris Judd becomes the unexpected voice of reason as emotions run high in a very well-executed production. I find it clever how the transition of scenes are incorporated in to the story on this small set-up, which barely changes.
Its beginning to materialise that Ellis isn’t actually a bad woman. Despite her crime, her demons have a lot to answer for and Waterworth emits these troubles so well in her role. It’s a tale that you start to believe could have ended oh-so differently. And while it’s a murder story, it’s also quite a sad story about love, and 1950s ignorance.
As we enter the courtroom, the tense and often hard-hitting plot line brings a few twists to the story, and unbelievable decisions to determine the fate of a human being are acted out to the point where sadness spills over in to the audience.
If you have any awareness of the Ruth Ellis story, this is a perfect enhancement to your knowledge. The cast have given a stellar performance tonight, and are rightfully receiving an ovation as they solemnly take their bows at the end. A very precise production, that gripped me and had most of the audience on the edge of their seats.