The first half of Died Blondes is a monologue in the form of a letter to David Blakey, Ruth’s victim and late-boyfriend.
Local author, Joan Ellis’ portrayal of convicted murderer and last woman to hang in Britain, Ruth Ellis, is harrowing. Joan is able to convey the raw conflicting emotions that Ruth would have undeniably gone through while waiting for her final walk down to the gallows.
This has clearly been a very well-researched and well- practiced performance. Conspiring to kill someone is no little thing, so of course why wouldn’t you recall every little detail and emotion that lead up to the event.
“I must have been standing there for so long- so long that my shoes began to pinch.”
Ruth passed her psychiatric evaluation, but Joan turns this idea on its head in under half an hour. Once her emotions take hold and old memories of an abusive relationship with David ensue, Ruth becomes almost hysterical.
The second half of this show is Marilyn’s final phone call to ex-husband, Joe DiMaggio. Joan performs this from behind a screen in order to draw focus to Marilyn’s final words.
She erupts down the phone to Joe with her many suspicions, all centred quite firmly around her relationship with the Kennedy brothers. At the time of her death, Marilyn had been suffering heavily with depression, and has various prescriptions to help her manage the condition. This becomes clear as she spirals in and out of consciousness. The conversation develops and details are revealed, questions are raised as to whether this was Marilyn’s paranoia or an assassination from the Kennedys.
A thought provoking and engaging performance. Joan will be performing Died Blondes at Edinburgh Fringe this coming Tuesday (15th August).
By Catriona Macaulay