Ruby Tuesday – Bewley’s Cafe Theatre – Review by P McGovern
Until May 06, 2017
Anyone expecting from the title that there’s a Rolling Stones angle will have to settle for Peter Skellern and a bit of ragtime piano. The world presented in this revival of Rose Henderson’s 2008 play is not rebellious or even vaguely Rock ‘n Roll. It is the staid, mundane and uneventful world of two women – at least it appears so, on the surface. Like most lives, however, when you glimpse beyond the surface there are all kinds of hidden personal dramas, involving relationship difficulties, the onset of ageing, and the grief of bereavement. Henderson has reworked the piece significantly from the original version, developing the relationship between two women, Mrs. T and Ruby, the woman who cleans for her. Yes, on Tuesdays.
The characters are well delineated: middle-class Mrs. T, all smiley, open, bubbly charm, warm and empathic; Ruby a no-nonsense working class woman, good-natured but clear-eyed, with a very realistic sense of the world around her and her own place in it. As the two settle into their weekly routine of laundering, dusting and cleaning, it seems as if we are in for a straightforward, slice-of-domestic-life and girl-talk piece. However, all is not as bland and cosy as it first appears. Both women have encountered serious problems in their family lives and, in their respective crises, each has thrown the other “a lifeline”, reinforcing the bond of friendship beyond the boundaries of employer/employee. The seriousness of the play is leavened with a lot of fun and the plot is enlivened with time lapses into girlhood and recapturing a few serious moments too. Colm Maher’s lighting design readily signals the shifts in time, place and character and, like Deirdre Molloy’s sympathetic direction, it does so without fuss.
Both Rose Henderson as Mrs T and Helen Norton as Ruby are excellent. Henderson’s wreathed, beaming smiles and fluttering movements and her eagerness to please at her schoolgirls’ reunion somehow belie an underlying anxiety to fit in and a need for affirmation. Norton’s Rose doubles as Mrs. T’s teenage sister of 30 years ago, effortlessly changing from inner city working class to solid Dublin middle-class, giggly school girl on holiday and later to the neighbour who calls in a misguided but well-intentioned effort to be helpful. When the darker side of Ruby’s life experience surfaces, it is deeply affecting, all the more so for the restraint in the acting and direction.
An odd weakness in the production is the stage set, not explained by the restricted space. Two cream-coloured, leatherette dining chairs of an “apartment fit-out” type and an odd-looking table draped with a cloth that reaches the floor. A €5-type of printed image of a cow as the only picture on the walls. The whole impression sits uneasily with the image of a couple that goes on golfing trips to South Africa. However, the strength of the performances means that such minor issues don’t really take from an enjoyable and worthwhile lunchtime performance which continues at Powerscourt Theatre, South William St, daily at 1 pm until May 6th.
By Rose Henderson
Directed by Deirdre Molloy
Starring Rose Henderson (Fair City, Father Ted) and Helen Norton (Fair City, The Heiress)