Writer: Dylan Costello
Director: Matthew Gould
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree
Giant Cherry Productions is a company set up with the express purpose, as the play’s programme says, “to bring a wave of new Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transsexual productions to the global film, theatre and television scene”. It certainly fulfils it ambition in Hello Norma Jeane, although the homosexuality of one of the characters adds little if anything to the story. Along the same lines as the post Russian Revolution film Anastasia, the main character is an old lady intent on proving that she is indeed a well-loved idol of the silver screen believed to have been dead for forty years.
This is a strong enough plot to carry an audience through a happy two hours without any sub-plot necessary. Vicki Michelle is Lynnie, the septuagenarian escapee from an Essex retirement home who has managed to reach Hollywood, though we are not told how, with the aim of proving that she is indeed Marilyn Monroe. She claims to have faked her own death, and somehow disposed of her own body, and escaped to England to start a new life.
The outcome of this change of situation has produced her grandson, Joe, who has managed to find out where she is and comes to take her back. Joe has long been fascinated by Marilyn to the extent that he is haunted by a vision of his goddess, who talks to him as an intimate friend and advisor. This part is taken by Farrel Hegarty who also appears later as the young Marilyn, the Norma Jeane of the title. All the Marilyns are unfailingly beautiful and charming and a fitting tribute to the original. Jamie Hutchins, as Joe, is an engaging young man who, while he adores his grandmother, who brought him up, is afraid she is going to make herself a laughing stock if she continues in her mission. The tall dark and handsome Arron Blake plays the out of work actor engaged by Lynnie to help her prove her case.
All the action takes place in a dowdy motel room in Los Angeles, brought to life in all its frightfulness simply by means of props, a dishevelled bed, a television set, a drinks table and some battered luggage all gathered together by designer Jean Gray. She is also responsible for the costumes which include not one but three versions of the iconic white halter-neck dress with its accordion pleated skirt. The action then continues with the search for the items that will prove that Lynnie is indeed Marilyn although her true identity is revealed only in the final minutes of the play.
The tale is told very much in the vernacular with the now obligatory four letter works sprinkled liberally throughout and there are many “in” jokes all of which seem superfluous to such a strong story. Brilliantly acted throughout, special honour should be paid to the dresser who must have some nifty footwork to perform backstage.
Runs until 2nd November (Sundays only)