Edinburgh Fringe 2013
A play, wirtten and performed as a solo show, by Clifford Barry. Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, live on television. But why? What’s the real story?
Clifford Barry was a hit at the Brighton Fringe with this solo show and has toured his way up to the Edinburgh Fringe. Barry writes and performs this piece about "the Mafia’s man in Dallas’. Here we are posed questions and offered some answers as to who Jack Ruby really was. Barry has painstakingly researched this play from original documents and court papers. He’s crafted an excellent piece of writing and delivers the material with deftness, intensity and much humour amid the the pain of a man waiting for the electric chair.
Barry establishes his theatrical claim to Ruby right at the outset of this production. A series of monologues lies at the core of this piece. Just a black box performance space, no set and one performer: Mr Jack Ruby, self-proclaimed friend and ally of the American people, languishing in Dallas County Jail for murder.
This is a top drawer character study, laced with dark humour and a penetrating study of the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald.
This is also a poised physical performance full of authority, well paced and directed to keep Barry just on the right side of character rather than caricature. Facial theatre is at the core of it – Barry has created a character that is believable throughout and his gritted-teeth study is full of carefully detailed observation realised on stage.
The writing: direct, full of small details that round out the charascter, posing tough questions through the mouth of Ruby himself. Was he in the pay of the mafia or a genuinely outraged Jewish American citizen, acting on that outrage in the heat of the moment? When opportunity suddently presented itself, did he act "from the goodness or his heart", or did a different story lurk underneath? Occasionally it feels as if the character is used for the delivery of the underlying research and that can feel a little forced.
So much uncertainty here about what really happened and we never know for sure. Yet it is also that uncertainly that engages us to the very end.
The direction: Barry inhabits the skin of Ruby entirely and consistently, from gritted teeth to clutching fists. The evocation of the character is simply staged, directly delivered, the hour rushes by due to the way we, the audience are directly addressed, asked questions, and therefore involved. Little gestures, momentary looks and laughs – we get very close up to this man. This is highly polished direction.
And, most of all, this is a bravura performance – about truth and lies, about impulsiveness and compulsion, about conspiracy and anti-semitism. There’s a lot of resarch packed into this script, linked through a well chosen sound backdrop that joins up the episodes we are shown.
Night club operator of the Carousel, Ruby’s life is a tragedy, but Barry shares this life with humanity, humour and a depth of research and erudition in writing that renders it into a classy solo production.
Highly recommended – you’ll be held in thrall from start to fnish, and probably afterwards as well. I heard manyof the audience still chatting about Jack Ruby on the way out.