Follow Me (FringeTIX)
Beth Fitzgerald & Ross Gurney-Randall @ Fringe Factory Theatre (The Pastry Bakery)
9:00pm, Wed 12 Mar 2008
Cor, fuck me. This was bloody brilliant.
Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be executed in the UK, sits quietly at a table as we file into the theatre. She looks very refined, proper. Beautiful. The audience in place, she launches into the most quoted line of her trial: “It’s obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him.”
And so starts this play, which alternates between the reactions of Ellis on death row, and the musings of her executioner, Albert Peirrepoint. Pierrepoint addresses the audience with the kind – but firm – voice of experience as if they were an apprentice. You can hear the professional pride in his voice – but, as the noises of protesters reach his ears and, more importantly, the trap-door test is inappropriately performed, you can sense the waver in his moral resolve.
As the performance progresses, we alternate between Ellis (revealing more and more about her crime, and her interactions with the prison staff) and Pierrepoint (backfilling his character with tales of previous executions). As the alloted time for the execution draws close, both characters become frayed; Ellis’ cool exterior cracks with a final grasp for life, Pierrepoint’s anger at the inappropriate treatment of Ellis.
Beth Fitzgerald is nothing less than stunning as Ellis; it’s one of the best performances of the year for me. Ross Gurney-Randall, whilst not reaching the same levels of brilliance as Fitzgerald, puts in a solid performance of a man on the edge, a man proud of what he’s done – but also beginning to question it, too. Masterson’s direction is the refined exercise in minimalism that we’re getting used to; stellar, nonetheless. In fact, the only fault I can find is with the ending; we’re so pre-conditioned to starting the applause when the lights drop to black that we miss the inevitable clunk-and-dangle.
But that’s a minor quibble. This is one of the picks of the Fringe for me; brilliant, compelling theatre.