Thelma Ruby Still on stage at 92

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - CLAIRE CANTOR

SOME PEO­PLE might con­sider re­tire­ment at 92, but not ac­tress Thelma Ruby. She’s in Jack Dee’s new sit­com Bad Move, she was re­cently named Oldie of the Year and next she’s per­form­ing as Golda Meir in a pub theatre. Momma Golda tells the story of Meir’s life from the age of six to

75. Ruby, who lives in Wim­ble­don, ex­plains how the show came about. “I mar­ried late — age 45 — and I was liv­ing in Is­rael with my hus­band Peter Frye. A South African friend of mine called me as he was di­rect­ing a play about Golda Meir in South Africa and his Is­raeli ac­tress had pulled out at the last minute. He des­per­ately needed a stand in. My hus­band con­vinced me to do it.

“I went off to meet Golda Meir in her sim­ple bun­ga­low. She made tea. I re­mem­ber that she said to me ‘I want you to do me a favour. I saw Anne Ban­croft play my char­ac­ter on Broad­way

— but she stooped. I don’t stoop!’ To be hon­est, I was more wor­ried about the fact that she smoked like a trooper and I don’t smoke.”

Fol­low­ing suc­cess­ful per­for­mances in South Africa, Ruby was ap­proached to cre­ate a one- woman show about Golda. How­ever, after dis­cus­sions with her hus­band, they de­cided, with per­mis­sion from Wil­liam Gib­son, the orig­i­nal play­wright, to adapt the orig­i­nal play into a two-han­der.

As her hus­band was em­bark­ing on a year’s sab­bat­i­cal from the Fac­ulty of Arts at the He­brew Univer­sity, it was the per­fect time to write their play. “We re­named it Momma Golda, and per­formed all over the world — Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sin­ga­pore, the Soviet Union, re­hears­ing in air­ports and ho­tels as we went along.” Ruby wouldn’t per­form it in Is­rael, though. “There is a lot of bad feel­ing to­wards Golda Meir there be­cause of her role in the Yom Kip­pur war. And al­though I be­lieve I am noth­ing like her, I’m a much softer per­son, I do ad­mire her and I am sorry that she never saw me per­form the play.”

What is the se­cret to her long ca­reer? “I am lucky enough to have good health, I swim, I have a weekly singing les­son. I have good friends and I keep up my Jewish ac­tiv­i­ties. I am a mem­ber of two syn­a­gogues. I try to en­joy life and to brush off bad things.”

Momma Golda, is at The Kings Head Theatre, Is­ling­ton on Oc­to­ber 8.

It will also be on at the Cen­tral Syn­a­gogue on Novem­ber 26, in aid of two char­i­ties

PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

Thelma Ruby

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