An Upper Norwood amateur dramatics group’s latest production looks at the tragic events which led to Ruth Ellis becoming the last woman to be hanged in Britain.
The Downsview Players, based at Downsview Methodist Church hall, Waddington Way, will be performing Amanda Whittington’s play, The Thrill of Love, at 8pm on 19, 20 and 21 May.
At the age of 28, Ellis, who lived in Sanderstead, was sent to the gallows in 1955 following the fatal shooting of her lover, David Blakely.
Director Steve Canning said he wanted to put on the play as it was important to tell her story sympathetically to a South London audience. He said: “Ellis was the victim of domestic abuse and a chauvinistic society. Having suffered abuse at the hands of her father, she seemed to drift from one bad relationship to another and also had demons with drink and drugs.
“The 1950s was a time when women were considered second class citizens so there was no empathy for what had happened to her.
“I would hope the legal system would view her case differently today. Courts in the 1950s didn’t take into account domestic violence or sexual abuse. These would be used today to build her defence.”
The Players have spent months rehearsing and have tried to remain upbeat despite the upsetting and tragic themes of the play.
Canning added: “Given the serious subject matter involved, we have tried to keep the rehearsals light so we don’t get too melancholy. The cast has worked hard, been serious and diligent to give this play the justice it deserves.”
Taking on the role of Ellis is experienced actor and director Anne Bassi.
She said: “It’s daunting to play Ellis, to be honest. Most people know the story through the film Dance With A Stranger in which Miranda Richardson, an incredible actor, played the lead role.
“I remember reading somewhere that although Ellis pulled the trigger, it was the men in her life that called the shots. She should be remembered as a key figure in the case for the abolition of the death penalty.”
Tickets costing £8 can be booked via www.ticketsource.co.uk/thedownsviewplayers