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Review: The Late Marilyn Monroe at Blue Orange Theatre

I must admit I haven’t been to Birmingham’s Blue Orange for a shamefully long time, but, invited by author Darren Haywood whose last play was a jaw-droppingly clever proto-sitcom, I just couldn’t wait.

He’s always been sharp as a dramatist but this time he’s surpassed himself with this unsettling conspiracy theorist’s dream about the last hours of Marilyn Monroe that had the hairs on the back of my neck rising with horrified excitement. This subtly powerful drama is the real thing, and frankly I wish some of our local heavily-subsidised theatres could sponsor anything nearly as good.

The Late Marilyn Monroe

The Late Marilyn Monroe

Because here we see the last precious hours of one of the screen’s great icons, a talented loser whose genius still burns in the collective memory today. Impossibly glamorous as a performer she had a massive instinct for style, and unexpectedly for comedy. Perhaps now only Billy Wilder’s immortal Some Like It Hot shows the true sophistication of a skill that enabled her to clear-sightedly parody her own screen image to perfection. Vulnerable and misused by the very industry that made her, she well deserves the respectful epitaph this play provides to perfection.

The beautiful Tania Staite is marvellous as the heartbreakingly headstrong and vulnerable star Marilyn, while Dru Stephenson is delightfully ambiguous as her publicist/friend/minder Pat. Martin Rossen hits just the right note her highly suspect psychiatrist Ralph Greenson while Ellie Darvill similarly catches exactly the guarded watchfulness appropriate to the housekeeper of a star whose every moment was under observation almost as a matter of state.

It’s a conspiracy theorist’s dream, and all the more powerfully convincing for that. But the real charm of this marvellous play lies in its subtly powerful telling of this all-too human story of a huge but fragile talent, used, brutalised and then dispensed with by the utterly powerful figures soon in their turn, as were the Kennedy brothers, to be tossed aside by the heartless forces of history.

Full marks to the Blue Orange for providing a home for this marvellous production. There is a discerning public out there, and they deserve to see more top class theatre like this. I recognised quite a few midlands stars who’d sneaked in to see this great show the same night I did. Catch it before the run ends.

A volunteer wrote this. Say thanks with a coffee.

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