There is nothing better than sitting at the feet of an elder telling you the story of her life. This particular elder, Lynn Ruth Miller, is a wonderfully natural storyteller. A person’s life is unique and you know you are getting a unique experience here. She enters the tiny space with the audience forming a right angle around her, and a shiny-faced young keyboard player plays her in. The diminutive figure that is Lynn Ruth Miller is carrying a suitcase and wearing an elegantly flowing kaftan-style top over royal blue leggings. She sings the title of her piece, which is funny and totally engaging. She has caught you immediately. The 60 minutes contains the fascinating story of her life so far in chronological order. She tells us of her Jewish mother who controlled her as a very young child by refusing to let her do anything until she finished her milk. Needless to say she stayed stubbornly in her high chair for an interminable time until an auntie rescued her, chastising her mother for giving her sour milk and inviting Lynn Ruth for a chicken supper that would conclude with her favourite – tapioca pudding. Food is the major feature in these yarns and one is astounded at the scale of her food consumption.
There’s a lovely sequence about sending numerous valentines to every boy who had ever shown interest in her, to no avail. As you listen, you realise you are getting nigh on a century of anecdote and therefore historical transition here and that is interesting as you see that time has also written itself on Lynn Ruth’s body and face – you are so close to her that you cannot help but look at her with this kind of curiosity. You realise too, that you are listening to someone actively and joyously relating stuff from as long ago as the 1930s and that she remembers clearly enough to embody and revisit that little girl of that very different time. At this moment older woman and little girl mix in a way that is impossible for younger actors to achieve.
Lynn Ruth Miller: Not Dead Yet is as delicate as it is heart-warming. Thank goodness Lynn Ruth Miller is not dead yet and she promises more from where this one came from.