A crime but not the punishment? Tragic Ellis story told at the Millgate

THERE has never been any doubt Ruth Ellis committed murder in April 1955, shooting lover David Blakely outside a London pub in cold blood.

Rachael Mayor as Ruth Ellis

For her actions Ruth, the daughter of a Mancunian father Arthur Hornby and Belgian mother Bertha Goethals was executed by Albert Pierrepoint at Holloway jail just three months later.

Ruth was 28 when she went to the gallows, becoming the last woman to be hanged in Britain.

A public outcry at the time couldn’t save her and there have been subsequent failed attempts to gain a posthumous pardon.

Yet Ellis was a victim herself as vividly, movingly and at times graphically portrayed by Saddleworth Players in their latest production, The Thrill of Love (March 30-April 6, Millgate Arts Centre, Delph).

Amanda Whittington’s play, first performed in 2013, details the many mitigating factors that led the model, bit part actress and night club hostess to kill her often violent racing driver lover.

Ellis was also a mother of two young children, abused as a child herself and a recipient of domestic violence at the fists of both husband George Ellis and her eventual victim.

Three months before the fateful shooting Ellis suffered a miscarriage caused by a punch to the stomach after an argument with Blakely.

Following a first court appearance she was deemed not to be suffering from mental illness or insanity.

Today though it’s hard to imagine any legal team not suggesting grounds of diminished responsibility as reason for her actions.

The Thrill of Love opens with the shooting on April 10, 1955 before fictional detective, Jack Gale (Phil Clegg), starts to tell the narrative.

Along with Ellis (portrayed by Rachael Mayor), the three other characters Sylvia Shaw (Alison Bowers), Vickie Martin (Ruth Wild) and Doris Judd (Emma Sykes) are based on people who featured prominently in her life.

Nightclub manageress Shaw and domestic Judd try to persuade Ellis to make different life choices but she is on a path of self-destruction.

All five cast members give excellent performances, particularly Mayor in the second half of the Sue Stephenson directed production, as her life unravels.

Tickets for remaining productions are still available online from www.saddleworthplayers.org.uk or from the box office at Delph Library (Thursdays 2pm–7pm, and Fridays and Saturdays from 9:30am–1pm). The box office telephone number is 01457 874644.

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