Emotionally Charged Hidden Stories
Hidden Stories: Now You See Me by Carly Halse and Darlint Peidi by Rosemary Hill. Bridgehouse Theatre, Warwick, on 6 June 2023.
Review by Ashley Hayward.
The Bridge House Theatre provided an ideal venue for two very powerful one act plays brought to us by The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company. Firstly we were treated to Now You See Me, written and performed by Carly Halse which tells the story of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the United Kingdom in 1955.
Ruth was a very attractive night club hostess and former glamour model who had endured a series of unfulfilling and difficult relationships before meeting David Blakely whom she admitted to shooting dead outside a London Pub.
However, Carly Halse reveals many lesser known facts about Ruth which were not covered by the media at the time as they portrayed her as more of a fun loving Femme Fatale.
Carly Halse as Ruth Ellis.
She had, in fact, been abused as a child and subjected to ongoing abuse by Blakely including being punched in the stomach which led to her having a miscarriage days before the shooting. We also learn the she was provided with the murder weapon by another boyfriend who also instructed her on how to use it. Furthermore even though the gentleman in question had given her a lift to murder scene he was never questioned by the police.
Carly gives an extremely convincing and sensitive performance as she recounts Ruth’s story with a stiff upper lip and accepts the punishment but also shows her concerns for the future of her two young children.
After the interval we viewed Darlint Peidi, written by Rosemary Hill with Rebecca Hardcastle playing Edith Thompson who was executed in 1923 alongside her young lover, Frederick Bywater, for the murder of her husband even though there was no evidence of her actual involvement.
She always claimed that she had no knowledge of her lover’s plans and Bywater insisted that he acted alone. Edith was portrayed by the media as a seductress and it could be claimed that she was hanged for her adultery rather than for murder.
Edith is joined on stage by a mysterious stranger representing herself as a 69 year old in 1963. The stranger points to all the progress that has been made with regards to women’s rights over the last 40 years but fails to impress the Edith of 1923 who sees the changes as merely superficial.
Both stories are very well written and superbly acted and have miscarriages of justice against women as their central theme. They also pose questions about the possible built in prejudice and negligence of the English legal system as well as the misogyny and inequalities that exist within it and the wider society.
The set for both plays is a simple back drop representing a prison cell and the performances are enhanced by some very atmospheric music from the two periods.
Both plays end with very moving speeches from the two condemned women which leave you feeling a range of emotions including anger and sorrow as well as questioning to what extent things have really changed in recent years.
The staff at the Bridge House were very friendly and welcoming and free drinks were also provided to what was a very disappointingly small audience. I understand Hidden Stories is currently on tour and I genuinely hope that larger audiences turn up to watch these two highly thought provoking playlets.
Further details: https://playsthethingtheatrecompany.co.uk/
Bridge House Theatre: https://www.bridgehousetheatre.co.uk/