Good Try, Norma Jeane: Marilyn Comedy-Drama Reviewed
The management seem anxious. Press are offered drinks before, during the interval, and after the show.
Social media joked about the potential of Vicki Michelle to shed the belted mackintosh of 'Allo 'Allo and don the accordion-pleated white dress of Marilyn Monroe. Friends of the production team clap over-enthusiastically and on cue at every blackout: there was similar engineered reaction from American sponsors at I Loved Lucy and Hand to God and to be honest there’s no surer way to put critics on their guard.
However, there’s little to be apprehensive about: Michelle convinces from the get-go as a 76-year old potty-mouthed Essex ‘nan’ whose dopy Argos-employed gay grandson comes to find her absconded in a motel room in Los Angeles. It could be the Catherine Tate sketch, until nan Lynnie reveals she might be Marilyn Monroe, herself absconded from the scene of her faked death in '63 and spirited away to Southend with the help of the CIA.
Despite the fact the CIA probably couldn’t find Southend on a map there’s enough plausibility in Lynnie’s story and wry one-liners mostly about age or sex in Dylan Costello’s script to carry you through the twists and turns of the first act as Lynnie and her sidekick set out to ‘prove’ her story by retrieving from various hiding places Joe DiMaggio’s signed baseball, Arthur Miller’s glasses, and her diary.
Nothing from her first husband, LAPD detective Jimmy Dougherty perhaps because he’s not famous, but was also still alive when this story was set so might have identified her.
Michelle’s performance maintains buoyancy through the second act transition from comedy to reflections on ageing, but there’s some squelchy sentimentality and facile sub-plotting about the grandson’s unfaithful partner back home and his consequent attempt to bed the fanatically gym-sculpted actor/hustler Lynnie has hired.
Peter McPherson certainly adds value to the two-dimensional actor character (front row seats furthest from the door if you're ready for your close-up), and appearing as two fantasy Marilyn characters Farrel Hegarty is endearing as the young Norma Jeane.
When this show aired at the King’s Head in 2014, reviews suggested it should be cut. Here, it’s expanded to a needless two hours 15 when the sweetness of the idea really demands the sharpness of an hour-long Edinburgh version.
Plus, in a couple of genuinely amusing scenes, various characters pull a gun but hold it consistently in the left hand. We couldn’t work out why — Marilyn wasn’t a southpaw.
But once Matthew Gould's affectionate production picks up pace, it will be an even more amusing evening — and since it’s at the delightful Park Theatre where tickets are never more than £20, a bargain too.
Hallo Norma Jeane continues at the Park Theatre until 19 March. Tickets £18 (concessions £16.50). We saw this play on complimentary tickets and only had half a glass of wine in the interval, honest.
Last Updated 25 February 2016