Ruby! a new play presented by Little Willow Productions about Belfast singing star Ruby Murray will go on tour throughout Northern Ireland following its successful premiere at Lyric Theatre Belfast over the last few days. See schedule below.
Written by Michael Cameron, directed by Richard Orr and starring Libby Smyth as Ruby, the play is an intimate, fact-based, one-woman performance celebrating her musical triumphs as well as her personal life, including the darker elements.
Born in Belfast and raised from humble beginnings on the Donegal Road Murray went on to become a huge star. Topping the bill at the London Palladium in the 1950s she remains the only singer in history to have five records in the UK top twenty in the same week. However, with major cultural shifts in the ‘60s coupled with poor management, difficulties in her personal life and an increased dependence on alcohol Ruby’s career was relatively short lived. She died in 1996 at the age of 61.
Former civil-servant-turned-writer Michael Cameron was inspired to write Ruby! his debut play, when he saw a painting of Ruby Murray by local artist Christine Trueman at a pop-up gallery in Belfast’s Corn Market. The passing of a mutual friend brought artist and writer in contact which spurred Michael to research Ruby’s life. The play was developed with support from Ruby’s immediate family including her first husband Bernie Burgess, their son Tim Murray, as well as creative support from well-known writer, director and actor Sam McCready.
Libby Smyth is one of Northern Ireland’s best-known and most versatile actresses who recently thrilled audiences with her performance as Estelle in Jane Coyle’s ‘Both Sides.’ Director Richard Orr is one of Northern Ireland’s leading actors and directors, appearing at over 25 productions in the Lyric including his acclaimed co-starring role with Adrian Dunbar in ‘Brendan at the Chelsea.’
Cameron, with Little Willow Productions, said:
“Ruby! ultimately came about as a way to remind everyone what an amazing talent Ruby Murray was and equally to tell her remarkable story. I think we’ve got the balance right in this play, audiences will hear a soundtrack of her beautiful original songs as well as perhaps discovering things about her life that they didn’t previously know. It is a drama in its own right, a show that people will love even if they don’t know a lot about Ruby Murray. Libby Smyth’s performance and Richard Orr’s directing will thrill audiences. For Ruby herself and for the Murray family, I hope we bring Ruby back to the heart of Belfast and that the city will claim her back and give her the recognition she richly deserves.”
“I have always been interested in the story of Ruby Murray, and how she became such a big star, but seemed to fade away. Being from Belfast myself, I am attracted to stories about our unsung and unjustly forgotten artists. I was excited to be asked to help bring Michael’s play to life, and touched to find out more about Ruby Murray, and the darker aspects of her life. I have always been intrigued by stories that explore what happen to individuals after their peak years, and I think this piece does a great job in exploring those facets of Ruby Murray’s life.”
Ruby! will tour Northern Ireland as follows: Marketplace Theatre, Armagh 21 February, Web Theatre Newtownards 22 February, Craic Theatre Coalisland 23 February, Alley Theatre Strabane 28 February, Island Arts Centre Lisburn 1 March and Theatre at the Mill Newtownabbey 2 March. For tour bookings, visit venue websites or visit Little Willow Productions on Facebook or Twitter.