Peter McGarry is an experienced,
independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to
review Talisman Theatre productions.
Thrill of Love
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The
Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content
of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.
Many dramatists have attempted to explore the
mind and mentality of a person driven to commit murder. Few
achieve the depth of insight of this powerful work.
Focusing on Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged under
English law, the play focuses on the impact of a seedy social
environment on the essential inner honesty of a woman who
never denied her crime but constantly refused to acknowledge
any sense of guilt over her actions.
The result in theatre terms is a demanding dream of a role
for an actress - one to which Ruth Herd responds with a terrific
performance. This is no basic thriller probing the whys and
wherefores of capital punishment, which was subsequently banned.
Writer Amanda Whittington is more concerned with the trials
of the human psyche.
The challenge is to equate the passionate and compulsive nature
of the central protagonist with her intriguing foibles - the
vanity of the 'peroxide blonde' and her essentially likeable
qualities of disarming self-appraisal and determined regard
for the niceties of proper spoken grammar.
Ruth Herd captures these variations with a strong sense of
commitment and her work is enhanced in later scenes by superb
chemistry with Julie-Ann Randell's simplistic but tenderly
supportive admirer and friend Doris.
Director Phil Quinn strives for effective visual and sound
effects but the intended film-noir factor does not work, simply
because it lacks essential boldness in delivery and suffers
a few elongated pauses. Other characters need to be more forceful
- the tough female manager of the gentlemen-only club which
is so much a part of Ellis's milieu, and the detective seeking
the truth behind the crime.
Attention is needed to the first act in which everything moves
at a rambling half-speed. Despite the somewhat sordid nature
of their world, there should be a feeling of vitality and
optimism, however fanciful. The pace notably steps up in the
The play's main aim, however, is realised - and this is no
small accomplishment by all concerned and, in particular,
the stunning central portrayal.