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Ruth Ellis, a Me Too case from the 1950s?

New examines the attempts to save abused nightclub hostess from execution

08 February, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Beatrice Andrew as Ruth Ellis

AN atmospheric drama about Ruth Ellis – who shot an obsessive boy­friend outside the Mag­dala Tavern in South End Green – has been produced by the Tower Theatre Company.

The Thrill of Love tells the story of a “desperate race against time” to save the nightclub hostess from the hangman’s noose.

Director Karen Hope said the play shows Ms Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK, in a new light and had contemporary parallels with the “Me Too” movement.

“Basically, she was a victim of domestic violence, and one day she snap­ped,” she said. “That didn’t come across at the time. “If it would have been now I think the court would have taken into account the mitigating circumstances of her life – she was beaten up by her husband, and sexually abused. She had been involved in dysfunctional and violent relationships. She had a miscarriage, she had hardly slept.”

Ms Hope added: “In the 1950s, culture was very different. She was from a working-class background and the man she killed was from an upper-class background. Quite clearly, she killed him but she was not in her right mind at the time.”

She said the cast had been following the latest stories about the Magdala Tavern. The pub’s owners have applied to turn an upstairs function room into a two-bed flat.

Ruth Ellis

Comedian Frank Skinner has joined a campaign to save the community space. Lead actress Beatrice Andrew (pictured on page 1), who posed outside the Magdala ahead of the show, visited the Old Bailey with other cast members in a fact-finding trip organised by a barrister who is also an actor with Stoke Newington-based Tower Theatre.

The play – set against a soundtrack of Billie Holiday’s “bruised and yearning voice” – opens on Valentine’s Day, February 14.


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