Thrilling tale of love and death
The mesmerising, sordid and ultimately tragic tale of the last woman to be hanged in Britain is the focus of the Rossendale Players' latest hard-hitting production.
"The Thrill of Love" which recounts the final years of nightclub hostess Ruth Ellis features stunning performances from the small, but word-perfect cast.
Special mention must first be made of 20-year-old Bethany Turnbull who plays the troubled protagonist, the peroxide blonde who murdered her lover David Blakely in 1955.
Bethany is superb in the role of Ruth, perfectly capturing her outward "school of hard knocks" confidence, which hid the vulnerability and turmoil the abused Ruth must have been feeling.
In what must have been a difficult role to pull off, Bethany manages to garner sympathy from the audience with her portrayal of Ruth as much a victim herself as she was a cold-blooded killer.
Indeed, many social commentators believe that Ruth's execution hastened calls for the abolition of the death penalty, which eventually came a decade later.
The play, written by Amanda Whittingham, also focuses on the friendship between Ruth and fellow nightclub girl Vickie Martin, again played brilliantly by Siobhan Morris.
The pair's friendship, and rivalry, elicits plenty of laughs in what would otherwise be quite a foreboding, difficult watch.
Bethany and Siobhan are ably assisted by a trio of Players newcomers - Gary Kennedy, Laura Thompson and Anne Fielder.
Gary is great as detective DI Jack Gale, whose hard-faced early thoughts on Ruth mellow as he discovers, in the role of narrator, many of the demons she was battling.
Laura, who plays nightclub manager Sylvia Shaw, is blessed with the most poignant line of the play when she tells Ruth "you're famous at last" while visiting her in Holloway Prison, shortly before her execution.
Anne Fielder, in the part of kindly cleaner Doris, makes her acting debut, although this seems difficult to believe as she too was excellent.
Director Stephen Gill has done a superb job in guiding a cast that make you revisit the moral debate over capital punishment, while still reminding us that women can be cold and ruthless killers. The lighting and sound effects are also instrumental in setting the scene and mood.
The Thrill of Love is running at the New Millennium Theatre, Waterfoot, Rossendale, at 7-30pm until September 30th, every night except Monday.
Tickets are Â£9 and can be bought online via Ticket Source, in person from Watt News (next door to the theatre) or reserved by calling Anne Riding on 01706 228720.