Sinners Club, Thursday 9th February, The Other Room, Reviewer: Bob Wigin
Not a play but a piece of ‘Gig theatre’, Sinners Club loosely portrays the life of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain. Lucy Rivers of theatre company Gabblebabble and her musical accompaniment The Bad Mothers play at recording an album while the audience sit around the edges of The Other Room theatre. It is an intimate experience and though there are gaps between musical numbers for small scraps of dialogue, the story of Ellis’s life is mostly interwoven in to the brash songs which Rivers carries with gusto throughout the performance. Rivers does not play the role of Ellis as such, though sometimes she seems to interact with a fictional word which the infamous woman might inhabit. For example, the unseen man producing the album is named David, and is presumably David Blakely, Ellis’s lover and murder victim. All this gives a wonderful sense of abstraction which means that when Rivers falls to the floor, silent, and the band concernedly get up, we are not sure whether this is part of the act.
The performance itself is hugely entertaining. Many musical genres are covered by the band, from country to rock-and-roll and not a beat is missed. If you like music of the 50s and 60s then you’ll be in for a hell of a time. But, the tragic story of Ellis’s life is not to be overlooked as the songs tells of how this woman went through terrible circumstances, eventually finding the love of her life and then having him turn his back on her. Also, the production of the performance itself must be applauded. Truly the small space of The Other Room theatre is made the most of. Hanging on the walls are pictures of Ruth Ellis herself, projections of home videos and contemporary newspaper articles concerning the woman flash up while the show goes on; we feel as if we are in some hellish segment of Ellis’s mind.
Sinners Club is not what you’d expect when you go to the theatre but it is all the better for it. As an experience, it is not to be missed.
by Bob Wigin