Ruby, Theatre Review, Belfast’s Lyric, February 13
By Conor O’Neill
Seven days before the performance, a Ruby Murray was a dish best served with rice, five days ago I did a little research. Came up trumps. Like the Beatles, the Bee Gees, Stones, ad infinitum, you, like me will know or have heard at least five of her hits.
She came from the Donegal Road, toured the world, fought the fight. Writer, Michael Cameron’s love is obvious. Actor Libby Smyth sits alone. A bottle of whiskey by her side, maybe Ruby’s undoing? Who can say?
‘The griddle is on the fiddle, and…’ makes a boy bounce writing a review with Ruby’s voice swelling through the speakers. The set is simple, yet perfect. A rug beneath a homely chair, a little drawing table to the right of chair. Here we have our protagonist. Dressed in simple clothing, reminiscent of a down-at-heel grandmother, Ruby, the famous one on the internet during her prime has had the earlier beauty nearly, and an important ‘nearly’ it is, a little diminished through her years of trials and tribulations.
What is left are beautifully melancholic memories, and a woman who has been through the mill. To quote Hunter S Thompson: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs. There is also a negative side.” Could seamlessly have been wrote for Murray
What could be easier, acting the best-selling singer not only from Northern Ireland but the UK. 1950’s music is nothing without Ruby. Libby Smyth simply makes it looks a harrowing tale easy. Hang your ear to a song, the list is long: Galway Bay; Softly, Softly; Danny Boy; Forty Shades of Green; Let Me Go Lover, and of course, possibly her most famous, Till We Meet Again. But this is not a musical. Far from it. A monologue broken up with snippets of Murray’s best known hits. Clever little moves like this make the action, Directed by Richard Orr, all the more powerful.
Not that she was making a ounce compared to those pulling the puppet strings. Imagine her disgust on playing a gig to find out the support act is getting paid more than the main act.
And then there’s her love life. Bad choice after bad choice; every glimmer of love dashed. It is often said that the Irish are always drunk, the reason why, ‘Every one from Ireland has had their heart broken’. On occasion the already dimly lit theatre dims further still. A spot-light’s circle hones in on the stage a foot further from the chair, Smyth stands, her voice becomes more impassioned, the rage only hinted at comes to the fore. A strength takes over and anger takes over. These moments are short but insightful. Empathy grows.
A one act play of 80 minutes. A story Cameron had to tell. The audience is on its feet. Beautiful story, beautifully acted. Highly recommended.
Ruby runs in Lyric until and including February 17th. Unfortunately, the whole run was a sell out well before hand. Maybe you’ll be fortunate enough to catch it next time!