Pros: A spectacular performer, Lizzie Wort holds her audience’s complete attention and adoration just as Marilyn Monroe did.
Cons: Hmmm… chair could have done with a pillow, but then I’d fidget in a throne.
The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe is in fact remarkable. Lizzie Wort delivers a one-woman monologue that captivated me for its entirety, and judging by the response of the audience, I wasn’t the only one utterly entranced by this woman and her words. Sometimes confessional, sometimes seductive, and sometimes longing, Wort’s friendly heart-to-heart is delivered direct to ticket holders, obliterating the fourth wall. But rather than threaten with her forwardness, Marilyn gently hypnotises through the telling of her life, sharing losses suffered, triumphs gained, and sacrifices made.
Generally being quite wary of bold theatrical devices (they remind me of GCSE Drama class where rather than being bold they were just bad), my preconceptions disappeared within the first five minutes of listening to Wort. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, and even though the ‘likeness’ to Monroe may not have been complete in voice and look, the quality of the movie star was there: the vulnerability, the coy charisma, the unspoken demand, ‘watch me’.
The script was beautifully designed, treading neatly backwards through the passage-ways of Marilyn’s past, both public and private. Friends and lovers from Bobby Kennedy, to DiMaggio and Arthur Miller were reflected upon with love. Childhood neglect and pain, experienced both with family and in foster homes, was relayed to heart-breaking effect. Wort moved seamlessly between the fragile child, the giggly coquette and the complex woman in the dressing gown before us, popping pills and swilling drinks.
The author, like the performer, did not shy away from the darker parts of Monroe’s psyche, physiognomy or femininity. Dialogue was interspersed with the raw liquid of life, the blood of the womb, and the fluid of sex. Though literally dead our narrator was a symbol of sex and life in it most literal form; the woman. Whether or not this play revealed the reality behind the sex symbol of movie mythology, what it did reveal was nevertheless utterly convincing and moving.
On entering the Studio at St James we were welcomed by the familiar scent of Monroe’s signature scent, Chanel N°5. Enveloped in its tones before curtain, and taking in the music records strewn across the floor, the golden bedspread, the pills, the drink and general life-debris, I was taken by my associations to Las Vegas – not surprising maybe, since like Hollywood, it’s a beacon for manufactured pleasure. But wherever I was in my head, the locale of the stage was perfectly poised in its casual elegance for the awakening of the beautiful blond on the bed.
I’ve visited the Studio at St James theatre before, and this time especially I felt the performance belonged in the space. Anything larger and the intimate confession might have drowned in disproportion; anything smaller and it might have strained to fit. This was perfect; the audience tucked in neatly around the small stage – was it my imagination or did our bodies move closer as the evening went on? As time passed the ‘icon’ of Monroe was no longer at the forefront of my mind. I wasn’t watching a celebrity, I was watching a woman. As my friend said on leaving the theatre, ‘it’s just a woman in a dressing gown’, and essentially that’s what it is, what she was, a person – a broken person – and it’s beautiful.
Author: Elton Townend Jones
Director: Elton Townend Jones.
Producer: Dyad Productions
Booking Until: This show has now complete its run, for UK tour dates, visit http://www.dyadproductions.com/tour%20dates.html