ME BEFORE MARILYN
Me Before Marilyn- The Space UK, 4.10pm
The story of Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe is a familiar one but one that also keeps evolving and is subject to change, even now fifty years on from her mysterious death. Still an icon to new generations she is still one of the most recognizable faces of the twentieth century. The legend is kept alive by the mystery shrouding her demise and also down to the fact Marilyn was obviously a compulsive liar during her short life. Even her original name fluctuates from being either Norma Jean Baker or Mortensen- Mortensen is more widely accepted as the genuine article- and her early years as related to various psychiatrists takes on many different perspectives depending on who she was relating her tale to.
Capturing the fractured psyche and the schizophrenic nature of Marilyn/Norma Jean this play opens with various voices zooming in from different areas of the small theatre throwing questions at the doomed star. It then moves onto her first marriage to James Dougherty which was merely a ruse to prevent her from going into further foster care. Ending the marriage whilst her husband was serving in the second world war Norma Jean then bleached up her hair, perfected her wiggle, pout and impossibly sweet breathy voice to re-invent herself as Marilyn Monroe.
The play continues by detailing her marriage to American hero and baseball star Joltin’ Joe Dimaggio which only lasted nine months and ended in acrimony and tales of domestic abuse. Following on from this she was ‘rescued’ by photographer Milton Greene and his wife Amy who helped instil her with a sense of self worth which had previously been lacking.
However as always with Marilyn the Greenes were shunned and dismissed from her coterie after she met and fell for the great American playwright Arthur Miller. This marriage lasted longer than the Dimaggio debacle but was also doomed from the outset. What followed after they divorced remains cloaked in scandal, intrigue and confusion and the truth will probably never be unearthed now as all the major players are dead.
This production by the young and aspiring Innovative Theatre Company Caged Theatre is an extremely adept effort by four actors who take on various roles. The central performance of Marilyn- Lucy Snowden- captures not only the legend’s beauty and poise but also her fragility. The other performances are also well executed and by not attempting American accents they have not allowed anything to detract from the performances by rendering it mere impersonation. The use of white clothes hanging on a black background showing footage of scenes of the stars life being played out was both clever and effective. I could have done without the Dire Straits soundtrack but that is a personal dislike and probably unnecessary griping.
All in all a valiant production and the only major flaw I could find was that at just half an hour long it was rather short. However they did cram a lot into that half hour without it ever feeling rushed.