ED2012 COLUMN: Close harmony quartet The Ruby Dolls this year present ‘Rubies In The Attic’, a blend of theatre and cabaret featuring songs from 1902 until today. Here, they explain why they chose some of those songs, in a ‘Desert Island Discs’ style.
The Ruby Dolls would make four very glamorous, yet resourceful castaways on a desert island. Jen Doll is handy in the dressmaking department, so she would fashion us each a sexy little number from palm leaves, and Susie Doll is rather taken by the idea of seashell fascinators, and would style our hair accordingly with sea salt. Jess Doll would be excellent at organising a shelter for the night, and T doll could use her sizable lungs to call to any passing ships.
The first record we would take with us would have to be Noel Coward’s ‘There Are Bad Times Just Around The Corner’. We would rather enjoy the irony of being so far away from civilisation and it’s many woes, amidst the sun and the sand. But it also lends an edge to the fact we could be eaten by a shark or run out of coconuts at any point! Sir Noel has always had a place in our repertoire, as we are a big fan of his quick-fire wit and beautiful melodies.
The Ruby Dolls are, on the whole, an international bunch. Jess Doll was born in Zurich to a Swiss German mother and an English Jewish father. They then moved to France where she would sing nursery rhymes to the passers by on the streets of Paris from the age of five, collecting loose change in a terracotta ashtray! She still loves to belt out an impassioned French melody, and so we would like to take ‘Dis! Quand Reviendras-Tu’, by French chanteuse Barbara as our next record, so Jess Doll could sing along with it and think of France as she looks out to sea.
T Doll, a Barnes girl growing up in London town, has a mother who hails from the high velt in South Africa. Therefore, our next record is ‘Asikathale’, a Zulu freedom song which came out of the Sharpeville incident in 1958 when unarmed protesters were shot dead by police. It was sung by thousands of mourners at Steve Biko’s funeral in 1977 but, alongside its political lyrics, the most joyful harmonies lie. It was shortly after the death of Biko that T Doll’s family left South Africa to start a new life in London.
For Jen Doll, our English rose with a Scottish mother, we choose our next record: Noel Coward’s ‘Any little Fish’. A song written in comic protest at the idea of being head over heels in love almost against your own wishes. Jen Doll’s English grandmother, Pat, fell for her grandfather as a divorcee, thinking he was “steady, older chap”, and then was devastated to discover that he was actually younger than her. The song makes us giggle and we would stand along the shoreline doing the ‘animal actions’ to this number, as we do in ‘Rubies In The Attic’!
Susie Doll was born amongst the coalmines in Staffordshire. She also has a southern Italian father, which is where our next record comes from. The Dolls love their Latin flavours and so ‘Bella Ciao’, a high energy popular Italian song, full of colour and life would be a definite desert island choice. Synonymous with the anti-fascist movement in Italy during WWII, it has since become a bit of an international left-wing symbol, appropriate to Susie Doll’s socialist grandfather. It would allow her to pretend that the sea is in fact the Adriatic coast, and the sand, that of Italy.
Moving on, our next record would be ‘Sympathique’ by French pop band Pink Martini. It is fun and camp and makes us feel sexy. Important when you’re sporting a coconut bra, and your hair is twice its normal size due to the humidity!
‘Rubies In The Attic’ is all about family histories and how families shape who we are. Family is very important to The Ruby Dolls and so for our next record, we’ve chosen ‘Look Mummy, No Hands’ by Dillie Keane of Fascinating Aida. It makes us cry, but it encompasses a central theme to ‘Rubies In The Attic’: how we are shaped by those who came before us. It is also about stepping away from those who raised you to live your own life, as we all have to do when becoming an adult, ready to pass on parts of them and of yourself to the next generation.
We would certainly have a lot of time to reflect whilst on our desert island, but we would also have time to dance and sing, which brings us onto our final record: ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ from Funny Girl, as famously sung by the wonderful Barbara Streisand. This features towards the end of ‘Rubies In The Attic’ as we dance our socks off and send our inspiring stories out with a bang. As four women making theatre in a world where young companies can often feel the struggle quite acutely, this has become a bit of an anthem for us.
If we had to save only one record from the waves, it would have to be this last one, as it would cheer us up, and we could dance across the sand to it.
In the tradition of Radio 4, we would be given the complete works of Shakespeare and a Bible. We would also like to take a complete anthology of Grimms Fairy Tales, as we are, above all, storytellers, and we could while away the hours bringing these to life for each other in our own creative ways. For our luxury, please could we have a large of supply of the lipstick Ruby Woo by Mac? We might be castaways, but a Ruby Doll is never seen without her Ruby Woo. Even if only to impress the seagulls!
The Ruby Dolls performed ‘Rubies In The Attic’ at Assembly Roxy at Fringe 2012.