The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe


More than fifty years on from her untimely demise a certain amount of fascination , intrigue and mystery still surrounds the death of Marilyn Monroe. This one woman play from Dyad productions written by Elton Townend Jones and featuring an outstanding performance by Lizzie Wort as the screen goddess deals with the thoughts which may have plagued Marilyn as she slipped toward her death. There is a consistent but haphazard-or is it? –popping of pills as well as the incessant ringing telephone which could be symbolic of death calling ort a metaphor for an alarm bell telling her to stop. Wisely the play treats these factors as inconsequential as many before have tried to solve the riddle of Marilyn’s death and it seems now with all other major participants also dead these questions will never be satisfactorily answered.

 When we first encounter Marilyn she is already sprawled out on what is soon to be her deathbed. The phone rings and she tries to establish whether it is Peter Lawford –who was possibly the last person to speak to her- but unable to make out who is there she turns to us, the audience, then elaborates on details of her life; some familiar, others less so. Recounting encounters with such luminaries as Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, John Huston, Montgomery Clift and Laurence Olivier and a fascinating insight into her relationships with them. The Kennedy’s of course getting a mention with Bobby rather than Jack receiving the bulk of her affectionate recounting.

Husbands Arthur Miller and Joe DiMaggio are opened up to scrutiny with her feeling Miller let her down from the earliest days of their marriage whilst DiMaggio was withdrawn and sullen, hating her career. First-and lesser known- husband James Dougherty also gets a mention and as a marriage of convenience she doesn’t elaborate or afford him much affection.

 Battles with her studio 20th Century Fox seem to rankle the most and we are constantly reminded how she is a mere mortal and not the goddess they try to sell her as. Finding it hard to live up to her constructed image is what she feels is eating away at her very soul but seems to neglect that fame is something she sought out more than willingly and extremely eagerly. It is harder to find fame than it is to avoid it, so are her problems ultimately really of her own doing? Again this is a question wisely left unanswered.

 Wort’s performance is what really carries this production. An excellent script allows her to characterise Marilyn rather than impersonate her. As such at the times when she shifts from Norma Jeane-or ‘Noodle’- into quintessential Marilyn mode then we are aware of the dichotomy tearing at the heart of the legend.Whilst we will never be totally aware of the events of that hot August night in 1962 this show provides some clarity to the psychological make up of the troubled woman at the centre of the mystery. This is an impressive outing and one seriously worth your time.


 Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe is showing at Assembly George Square until August 26th

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