New play hopes to bring singer Ruby Murray to life

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Belfast born singer Ruby Murray was one of the musical sensations of the 50s, but she is often overlooked in her hometown.

Playwright Michael Cameron is hoping to change that with his new production Ruby!, which is opening at the Lyric on February 13, before taking to the road to visit theatres across the country.

Michael first developed an interest in Ruby when he spotted a painting by a local artist that captured his imagination. After being further inspired by an EP of her songs released by Duke Special, he made contact with her family, including her son, with the hope of sharing her story. “We have become very good friends and spent a lot of time talking about his mum,” revealed Michael. “At the end of her life he was the person that spent a lot of time with her when she reflected on her career.

“The play is set about six months before she died. At this point she is living in a retirement home with little by way of evidence of her career in showbiz. She didn’t get any royalties so all she had were her memories to look back on.”

Born in Belfast and raised from humble beginnings on the Donegall Road, Ruby, played in the show by Libby Smyth, topped the bill at the London Palladium in the 50s, and she remains the only artist in history to have five records in the UK top 20 in the same week. However, with poor management, difficulties in her personal life and an increased dependence on alcohol, Ruby’s career was relatively short lived.

“We are dealing with that aspect of her life in fairly vivid detail,” said Michael. “It is a one woman show and is quite a dark piece of theatre at times.”

He is delighted to be opening the show at the Lyric Theatre but he felt it was important to bring Ruby out of Belfast as well. “We wanted to target small theatres where the audience could have a very intimate experience and almost be in the room with her,” he revealed. “We want people to know more about Ruby, have a great night at the theatre, and discover her music as well.”

Ruby! will take to the stage of the Marketplace Theatre, Armagh on February 21, Web Theatre Newtownards on February 22, Craic Theatre Coalisland on February 23, Alley Theatre Strabane on February 28, Island Arts Centre Lisburn on March 1, and Theatre at the Mill Newtownabbey on March 2.

Tickets are on sale from the various theatre box offices.