She was a down-to-earth girl from Belfast’s Donegall Road who reached the top of the showbiz ladder, but away from the glitz and glamour of the London Palladium there was a darker side to the Ruby Murray story.
Her remarkable life journey has been captured in a one-woman stage show – Ruby! – starring Libby Smyth which will open in the Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey on Friday, February 28.
Written by Michael Cameron, the intimate performance is a celebration of the songstress’s life, music and runaway success, as well as giving an insight into the private battles she fought away from the limelight.
At the peak of her career in the 1950s, Ruby had five records in the UK Top Twenty in the same week – a feat not matched by any recording artist before or since.
However, the combination of major cultural shifts in the 1960s and poor management decisions led to difficulties in her personal life and an increased dependence on alcohol – cutting short her career by several years.
The resulting turmoil took a heavy toll on her life and Ruby died in 1996 aged just 61.
Michael Cameron, a former civil servant, was inspired to write Ruby! his debut play, when he saw a painting of the singer, created by local artist Christine Trueman, at a pop-up gallery in Belfast’s Cornmarket.
The production was developed with assistance from Ruby’s immediate family including her first husband Bernie Burgess and their son Tim Murray. The team was also able to avail of creative support from, the late director and actor Sam McCready.
Mr Cameron said: “We are delighted to return to the Theatre at The Mill and theatres across Ireland with Ruby! Audiences and critics enjoyed discovering things about her life that they didn’t previously know as well as being captivated by Libby Smyth’s fantastic performance.
“This new production of the show will be directed by Colm G Doran, it will be a slightly longer show, featuring new material and some additional set design.”
Actress Libby Smyth said she was looking forward to the opening night.
She said: “It’s been a privilege for me to bring Ruby’s story to a wider audience and also to meet her family and hear their stories at first hand. I’ve loved seeing the responses of audiences as they hear Ruby’s story unfold. It’s a wonderful part to play as an actress as Ruby’s life story covers a range of emotional episodes, some of which are quite dark and upsetting.
“I’m very excited to be bringing her back to the stage in 2020.”
Tickets are available from box office on 028 9034 0202 or www.theatreatthemill.com