“There’s autobiographical performance, and then there’s autobiographical performance by Ruth Mitchell, who weaves personal narratives about family, hopes and dreams with such skill that you’ll want to sit and listen to her stories all night.” Belinda Dillon’s Top 5 Picks of the Fringe
Toured the South West and West Yorkshire in the Autumn and Spring of 2016 supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Theatre West commissioned and produced Homeward Bound in 2014 for their autumn ‘One Day’ season, it was first performed at the Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol.
Homeward Bound looks at the dreams we hold and the cards we get dealt whilst attempting to round the bases of a baseball diamond and reach home. A solo performance inspired by my son’s love of baseball and the Los Angeles Dodgers and the team he plays with in the South West Baseball League; interwoven with stories of my own upbringing in a Northern household and the lives of my mother and grandmother. All children have childhood dreams, in Homeward Bound I look at the dreams of my Northern grandmother (see below) and mother and the restrictions they faced and conquered.
What They Said…
***** “Homeward Bound was, without question, one of the best shows I have ever watched.” Rosemary Wagg, Exeunt, read the full Exeunt review here
“fantastically executed and deeply reflective it’s a wonderful play that causes the audience to think back to their own past, family and dreams.” Christy Ku, the Reviews Hub, full review here
Some lovely words about my solo work and writing by Lucien Waugh in this Exeunt article here
Coffee With Vera
Winner of the Critics Choice Wildfire Award Exeter Ignite 2014 and awarded the ‘Intellect’ postgraduate prize for public engagement 2013
Coffee with Vera is a solo performance in the form of a coffee morning. It tells stories about identity and heritage of the Plymouth Synagogue – the oldest Ashkenazi Synagogue in the English speaking world. The character of Vera Jockleson was created by researching the female voices in the congregation, she co-hosts a coffee morning with Ruth and recounts how this form of social gathering was a monthly event for the Ladies Guild. Through Vera we hear of past events whilst Ruth tries to connect her own history to the vestry by searching for possible Jewish relatives.
‘Ruth Mitchell delivers a masterclass in how autobiographical work can tell a deeply personal story while drawing in the wider world and experience, and without a hint of self-indulgence’ Belinda Dillon, Exeunt Magazine
Click here to read the full Exeunt review within a wider round up of Exeter Ignite
“Really moving, she holds that space with humour and warmth and it’s a really wonderful piece of work…something that was done so simply and so honestly, and that made it beautifully authentic to me…” Culture & Review Show, Phonic fm
Belinda Dillon’s Wildfire Review June 2014
On the set of Little Dorrit in 1987-practically her first job out of drama school- Ruth Mitchell met the peerless character actor Miriam Margolyes. As they both sat in the ‘make-up removal’ room (key to creating the film’s authentic Dickensian aesthetic), Miriam scrutinised Ruth before asking, “Jewish?” To Ruth’s denial, Miriam replied, “With that name – and that face- you should be!”
And so began Ruth’s investigation into whether the girl who should be Jewish could be Jewish, leading her from records offices to censuses to ancestry.com, from personal memory through family myth to the creative springboard of ‘what if…’ to the vestry of Exeter Synagogue, where she shares with us her story over coffee and home-baked cake. Using photographs and marriage certificates, recipe books and playbills pulled out from a suitcase in front of her – and via the character of Vera Jockleson, Chair of the Ladies Guild and consummate coffee morning hostess- Ruth fuses autobiography and history to create a subtly moving meditation on the nature of identity and heritage. Seamlessly entwined is a fascinating insight into the Plymouth Synagogue and the Jewish diaspora in the South West.
This quiet piece is at its most powerful when Mitchell is herself, guiding us through her story with warmth and humour, especially when the desire for a fresh start or the cruelties of persecution have necessitated slippages that are hard to trace.
Coffee with Vera was practice as research for Ruth’s MRes in Theatre & Performance at Plymouth University