Prior to the doors opening for The Thrill of Love I had happened to quickly research the plot of the play and had watched the odd trailer and clip from previous adaptations. It’s fair to say that this production had boots to fill, but Front Room Production’s The Thrill of Love certainly stepped up to the challenge.
I had my doubts about it being performed in a chapel due to the potential issues with spacing, echoing and limitations with props and set. But for once I was happily mistaken. The promiscuous, dark and intimate behaviour of the action was in stark contrast to the religious setting. The effect was almost comic, but also strangely necessary. It suited the theme, tone and text in a harmonious way, which made the overall reaction and interaction between audience and cast much more intimate.
As the function of the first act was to give context and background to the intriguing and disturbingly compelling character that is Ruth Ellis, it was somewhat tame compared to the second act. Not much could prepare us for the powerful emotion displayed after the interval, which was only made possible from the in-depth personal relationship that each actor evidently had with his or her character.
The actors were compelling in their roles and really got into the psyche of each of their characters. Interestingly there was only one male role, making the main catalyst and lover, ‘David’, hauntingly absent which effectively cast more attention upon Ruth Ellis and her story.
Eliza Cummings-Cove as Ruth Ellis made a very intense character become very realistic. Clementine Medforth as Sylvia, Shona Graham as Vickie and Georgie Franklin as Doris had a close, humorous rapport with one another, which added an alternative dynamic to the overall plot and atmosphere of the play.
The intensity of the mood and acting was aided well by the focalised lighting throughout. This intensity paired with the harrowing ambiance of the chapel made the situation feel all the more real, which made the audience, who were posed as jury members, feel all the more involved.
Being able to see every other audience member was at first a little unsettling, but became an effective way to add to the realism of the situation. This was climaxed at a few occasions: in the haunting, disturbing scene in the bedroom and in the conviction scene. This intensity was made possible due to the conviction of voice, mood and tone throughout.
Thankfully the period aspects in the play were adhered to, making the overall dynamic of the play believable, intriguing and disturbingly enjoyable. Costumes, music and visual aids were integrated successfully, so much so that I felt as though that I should be watching the play in black and white.
The raw depiction of emotion and insight into such a harrowing situation was overwhelming. I left feeling startlingly awake and somewhat shocked. The level of intensity and intricacy was clear to see and a strong level of talent was executed.
‘The Thrill of Love’ is on until 7 November, at Hatfield Chapel.
Photograph: Mikolaj Kundegorski