Pros: A charming comic drama with twists and turns aplenty.
Cons: An inconsistent script made things a tad confused and the pacing stop-start.
It turns out Marilyn Monroe is not dead. She has simply changed her name to Lynnie and was hiding out in Essex this whole time. Frustrated at being put in a nursing home by her underachieving and neurotic grandson, Joe, she runs off to LA to plan her comeback. The play opens and takes place entirely in a hotel room in Hollywood as Joe turns up to take his wayward gran back home. From here, Lynnie produces a series of different pieces of evidence to prove she is in fact Marilyn Monroe. Could it be that this bizarre old lady is telling the truth? The continued uncertainty has everyone questioning their sanity.
The set was appropriate, nothing flashy, but relevant to the content. The lighting was strange at points, illuminating the audience a lot, becoming distracting and making it hard to see the action. However there was something so thoroughly charming and engaging about the plot and characters that some of the show’s shortcomings were easily forgiven. This was a production about relationships and the need to feel wanted and special as Lynnie leads Joe to re-examine his whole past in the light of this absurd possibility. The characters’ lives and personalities combine in new and interesting ways. The tenderness between Joe and Bobby (a struggling actor Lynnie hires to convince Joe of her identity) was the highlight here. As their love/hate relationship provided a distraction for Joe from his inner Marilyn Monroe (played by Farrel Hegarty) and his utter bewilderment at his grandmother’s delusions.
The energy of the acting is what kept things interesting, but there seemed to be a strange split in the script, as if it was written by two very different people One wanting to write a Blackadderesque comedy with overblown and contrived one liners. The other wanting to write a more dramatic and tender story about love. The two seemed to interrupt each other rudely and didn’t meld together as they were presumably supposed to.
Peter Mcpherson playing Bobby gave a commanding performance despite his role as a more peripheral character. As he provided an emotional depth and was able to bridge the gap of the script with great success. Vicki Michelle as Lynnie swaggered around between tragedy and absurdity like an Essex Blanche Dubois and provided a reliable backbone to the performance. Although at several points she seemed to stumble over the last word of each line she spoke.
Overall, I wanted to like the show more, I just found it hard to fully engage as the pacing and script didn’t flow well. But there was something brilliant here that could be seen but not felt. There was a tenderness and subtlety that got lost somewhere underneath the contrived attempts at comedy and some dull staging. I enjoyed the show but wasn’t fully satisfied.
Playwright: Dylan Costello
Director: Matthew Gould
Production Company: Giant Cherry
Booking Until: 19th March
Box Office: 020 7870 6876
Booking Link: https://www.parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/hello-norma-jeane