(Someone wrote in to Kakiseni
with some questions for Gavin, but I've responded instead...basket.)
Gavin and I have been developing the character of Ruth ever since the very first reading. In fact we didn't really 'settle' on Ruth until the very week we opened. After reading the script and going away with the character development assignments given by Gavin, I came to my conclusion that Ruth's outlook on life is a constantly shifting paradigm. This, in essence, almost makes her childlike, impulsive and impudent - her actions are defined by her stream of consciousness. She is not calculative, but more cunning. I think perhaps her assertion of power is not validated by responses to her provocations, but merely her actions alone – the fact that she is not intimidated by Lenny, her petulant nature with Teddy. None of them respond to her in the stereotypical manner, (i.e. I Roar, You Cower.) Plus, a more logical explanation for Ruth's 'weirdness' is Teddy's line (in response to Max's suggestion of keeping her in Act 2 ) - " I'm afraid not, Dad. She's Not Well, and we've got to get home to the children."
We had pretty much avoided this statement since the first reading, but ultimately the character development was such that we had to acknowledge it. Ruth isn't well. In fact, she's a little loopy.
So, in response to your questions - the lying on the floor, the nervousness and the general staring into the space was choreographed to convey the inconsistencies of Ruth. The goal was that Gavin did not want the audience to know what she was thinking, or what she was going to do next. It was important to discern that she was thinking of something, but what exactly it is or what she's going to do with it is meant to keep you guessing.
Teddy and Ruth. Yes, she is always this insufferable to Teddy. Our back story to Teddy and Ruth was that they were once in love, (hence the slightly melancholic goodbye between Ruth and Teddy, Teddy's pain when she dances with Lenny..) but ultimately Ruth's 'weirdness' did not complement the makings of a professor's wife. So, the last few years of their marriage have been rather turbulent, to say the least.
The last scene - Ah, the negligee. I have never worn so little clothing in public, so if it was just a gratuitous 'for-the-lads' moment I would have castrated Gavin with a butter knife. But since I believe it really wasn't, he is still walking upright. This particular 'visual' addresses the portrayal of women in this household and the issue of the 'male-gaze'. Women, in this household represent both the mother and the whore - the extremes of the male gaze. Max, in the same breath admires Jessie has a wonderful mother – "the backbone to this family...what a mind"
and derides her as a "slut bitch of a wife"
with a "rotten stinking face"
. When Ruth comes down in her final incarnation as a possible replacement for Jessie, she represents this paradox. Her image suggests that of a whore - the objectified sex symbol, but yet her actions propel her to the top of the food chain. She demands without compromise, they agree to all her demands instantly. It is also a commentary that she has arrived in this position (no pun intended) through sex. Even though throughout the entire play, she doesn't really sleep with anyone. (With the exception of possible Lenny because of his "professional opinion"
…we also explored the possibility that Lenny and Ruth might actually fall in love, because she is the first woman to challenge him, and he likes it! Or, like any other man, he's looking for a mother..)
So, I will tie this up by quoting theatre critic Michael Billington, who interviewed post-and-pre-nobel Pinter, "You can never say with Pinter that one interpretation is wholly right or another wholly wrong. What you can say, with reasonable certainty, is that the play continues to get under our collective skins..."
Anyway, I hope this has helped answer your questions.
p/s The rest of the cast might have something add...