By Jenny Cornfield
As someone with a penchant for red lipstick, bunting, vintage suitcases, high heels and storytelling, the play ‘Rubies in the Attic’, performed this year at the Edinburgh Fringe was always going to be something that I would find appealing. Written and performed by the Ruby Dolls this clever, charming, moving and witty play was a real highlight of my summer. So much so, I went twice!
First with my ten year old daughter, who was delighted that the audience became an intrinsic part of the performance and then with Sharon, Aline and Claire (Sophia Trustees) in celebration of Claire’s upcoming wedding.
Set in the high rafters of The Roxy, a beautifully converted former chapel on Roxburgh Place, each Ruby Doll dressed in stunning costumes that evoke the glamour of the 40’s, tell through song, puppetry and dance, something of the family history she carries. Crossing decades and continents; drawing on themes as deep as prejudice; unfulfilled hopes; immigration; apartheid, love and marriage each ‘doll’ shares something of the stories that have shaped and made her. With humour, elegance and perfect timing the stories sing their way home into the audiences hearts and minds.
The Ruby Dolls are Jen Doll, Susie Doll, T Doll and Jess Doll and I suggest that you look them up at www.therubydolls.com/ and see if they are singing in a venue somewhere near you! Time Out describes The Ruby Dolls as “an elegant, inventive and absorbing fusion of theatre, music, storytelling, dance and puppetry.” Sharon, Aline, Claire and I could not agree more!
I am fortunate to know in real life, Jen Doll.
In Rubies in the Attic she tells the story of her quintessentially English grandmother, Pat. Using Noel Coward’s Any Little Fish, she shares, in a perfect cut glass English accent, the story of her grandmother’s second marriage to her second husband, Mike. Mistaking his bald head as a sign of
maturity and age, she takes him for an’ older, steady chap’ and is devastated when she discovers that he is actually younger than her! With incredible wit, perfect comic timing and heart breaking one liners, she weaves a story of love.
In real life, she is Jenny Flannagan; a writer, actress and film-maker. She has worked for Tearfund for the past 8 years, and her particular focus in recent times has been finding ways to capture and share stories of Christians serving their communities in diverse ways around the world. Jenny is a founding member of The Ruby Dolls theatre company. She lives on a council estate in South London with her husband Andy, where they are trying to be downwardly mobile. They are part of The Well Community Church and lead a fledgling missional community. Jenny blogs beautifully at talkingupthegood.wordpress.com and this month she blogs for Sophia about the fact that in amongst the rave reviews that Rubies in the Attic received this summer (my words, not Jenny’s!) they also received some criticism about their name and their glamorous appearance and style. Jenny asks us to consider why it might be that glamour is deemed to be inconsistent with serious femininity? Why is a woman’s intelligence and depth not taken as seriously when she is perhaps dressed in red lipstick and heels?
And talking of glamour, Claire, you looked seriously stunning on your wedding day! Congratulations to you and Chris on your marriage! And, erm, Ruby Dolls, I just thought that I would mention that I have
red heels and red lipstick if you ever need an understudy or another ‘doll’!