TRUE CRIME Ruth Ellis
Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre, Tue 2—Sat 6 Feb.
What is it with murderers? What compels authors of the stature of Gordon Burn (Hyndley, the Wests) and Blake Morrison (the Bulger killers) to devote entire books to their horror stories? And what drove a young actress called Fiona Ormiston to spend two years of her life researching and ultimately recreating the final days of Ruth Ellis, the last woman hanged in Britain?
'She made murder glamourous,’ says Ormiston, simply. ’Because she committed a crime of passion, because she was this bottle blonde — in the fifties, if you bleached your hair you were either a tart or a movie star. I think Ruth thought of herself as a star, whereas everybody else . . .'
The relationship between the two women began casually enough, when the actress was browsing for a cut price read. ’I was in a bargain book store when I picked up this true crime anthology. Ruth Ellis was the reason I bought it, because I’d seen and enjoyed Dance With A Stranger (1985 film with Miranda Richardson and Rupert Everett). Then I started to realise there was more to the story, and another way to look at Ruth’s life and death.’
The actress first adopted the persona for an audition at the RSAMD, turning a letter from the condemned woman into a monologue. That was enough to convince the academy of Ormiston’s worth, and she returned to the subject throughout her studies, writing a full—length play in the months following graduation. Researching the role took Ormiston to the openly hostile environment of Holloway Prison, where the staff’s refusal to co-operate extended to threatening to arrest
Wherefor art thou Alfa Romeo?: Carburns 8: Alexander
Homicide Blonde: Fiona Ormiston is Ruth Ellis
the actress for the heinous crime of taking photographs.
The show, by now a collaboration with James Robert Carson, premiered at the 1998 Fringe to considerable critical acclaim (The List called it ‘shocking, sad, and wonderfully entertaining’). Glasgow theatre goers will see a new and improved version (sponsored by Miller Homes) at the Citizens, where Ormiston is clearly relishing the chance to get into the nylons and under the skin of the murderess once again: ’I like Ruth. I like her sense of escapism - she refused to give in to' the drab, oppressive post war atmosphere! like complex, on the edge women, and I’ve got another one up my sleeve.’
Again, the inspiration will be criminal and peroxide - 'Sheila Garvey, from Aberdeen, her lover killed her husband in 1968. She was a blonde, too . . . '
breathe makes for an incredibly rich production.’ Appreciating the dialogue clearly represents the key to Iona's take on the role, especrally when it comes to generating that all important but indefinable chemistry between Juliet and the boy Montague (Brian Alexander) 'Every time we open Our mouths and say these incredible words we cannot help but be carried away,’ she enthused. 'There's no need to develop a technical approach to creating a chemistry, the words do all the work for us.’
Still, surely the heartbreaking rollerctoaster Juliet rules must be draining for any actress, and particcilarly for one whose prevrous role was the equally demanding lead in
Romeo 8: Juliet Edinburgh: Brunton Theatre from Fri 29 Jan. On the same day Shakespeare In Love sees Gwyneth Paltrow hit the nation’s multiplexes as the inspiration for Juliet Capulet, Iona Carburns Will walk onstage at the Brunton Theatre as the dramatic incarnation of history's most celebrated tragic teen.
For what is her first professional
58 THE “ST 21 Jan 4 Tel) 1999
encounter With the bard, the actress is relieved to be involved in a relatively straightforward IIIU‘rpTGIaiIOII, no handguns, drugs and Prince tracks as in the DiCaprio/Danes/Luhrinann movre: 'The setting is contemporary Verona and we're in modern dress, but that's as far as it goes,’ she reveals, 'We're sticking faithfully to the text, not cluttering up the language With some . concept. The words are so arnazrng that just givmg them room to
Nicola McCartney's acclaimed Heritage, seen last autumn at the Traverse and on tour7 Again, the strength of the material comes to the periormer's emotional rescue 'When the writing is this good it's not as tiring You just have to go on and do it You're never havrng to paper over any cracks or make huge intellectual jumps to justify your character, because everything you need is right there on the page '
Stage whispers Peeking through the curtains
AS THE LIST went to press, Doug Healy’s one man tribute to Chic Murray was under threat of legal action from the heirs of the comedy legend. Healy is accused of breaching copyright by using Murray's routines, despite the fact that the show ran unmolested, and to considerable acclaim, at the 97 Fringe. One performance in East Kilbride has already been cancelled after pressure from the Murray family, but the Queen’s Hall gig on Fri 22 Jan was expected to go ahead.
NEW COMMUNICADO HEAD honcho Helena Kaut-Howson will dip her toe into the pool of Scottish thesping talent with a three-day acting workshop at the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. The Polish born artistic director will lead the course alongside Theatre de Complicité's Joyce Henderson. A very reasonable fee of £30 will be charged, and interested performers should write to Communicado, 2 Hill Street, EH2 3J2.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING At the very moment Edinburgh’s Theatre Community were presenting a united front, co-ordinated professionalism in action address to the city council to garner future support and funding, Hilary Strong was announcing her Fringe resignation. As Don DeLillo once said, coincidence is a science waiting to be discovered.
SCOTLAND’S FIRST PROFESSIONAL Asian theatre company was launched in Glasgow on 18 Jan. The New Scots Theatre Company will produce its first show, Tartan Bhangra to tour later this year. Writer Vance Carson has received a Scottish Arts Council development grant to work on the project, which will be staged in association with Saffron Arts International, Radio Kranti and famed Glaswegian outfit
Wildcat Stage Productions.
r1 9 . Retro Chic: Doug Healy