The Thrill of Love
by Amanda Whittington
2 - 7 March, 2015
The facts are not in dispute. On 11 April 1955, Ruth Ellis shot and murdered her lover, David Blakely outside a Hampstead pub. Ellis was found guilty and became the last woman to be hanged in Britain. But why was she so keen to admit her guilt, and so loth to offer any defence, even to refuse to name – until it was too late – the person who gave her the loaded gun? A powerful, thought-provoking drama.
The Thrill of Love is a rare play in that the story is driven by four strong female characters whose lives intertwine. The lone male character acts as a narrator trying to piece together the story behind the story. Most importantly, all the men who mistreat Ruth (and others) are never seen – allowing us to witness the events from a female perspective
Set in the 1950s, the play investigates the impact on women of male dominance in society. You could argue that we have moved forward in the last 50 years – you may argue that we haven’t come far enough.
The involvement of many influential men behind the scenes of Post War Britain – the wheeling and dealing, the pre-occupation with Cold War secrets and espionage, the “grooming” of selected women to party, drink and sleep with important politicians and celebrities was clearly going on. Stephen Ward, at the centre of the Profumo scandal, was personally responsible for the employment of Ruth, Vicky and many others like them.
The story, on the surface, appears to be very well known; Ruth Ellis shot and killed her lover. She admitted it. However, the play touches upon a variety of facts and information that didn’t get investigated at the time. Conspiracy theories abound and some are lightly touched upon here. Ruth Ellis’s execution brought about a huge protest against the state execution of females and whether a civilized society should ever sanction the taking of life.
The music of Billie Holliday that accompanies the story is inspired – I claim no credit! Researching Holliday herself, it was remarkable how similar her life experiences were to Ruth’s – substance abuse, domestic violence, seedy clubs and prostitution and most importantly, destructive personal romances.
The play has provided an opportunity to create an almost “filmic” style of production where scenes merge seamlessly together and almost blend into one. The non-chronological timeline keeps the audience active – having constantly to “piece together” the events of the story. The play has several Film Noir elements and conventions at its core – the “gumshoe” detective, the Femme Fatale, the intrigue and shadowy dealings and this production has been influenced by these elements.
The cast and crew have been incredibly hard working and focused – they are all very talented and I have thoroughly enjoyed working alongside them. I sincerely hope you enjoy the fruit of their labours.