Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies


This is the Monday when many acts take a well earned rest so I decided to make an unusual foray into the Free Fringe. There was just something about the title ‘Bette Davis Ain’t for Sissies’ which appealed and the star of this show, Jessica Sherr, more than proved herself in a demanding role of possibly the greatest screen actress of all time.

 The action takes place on the evening of the Oscars in 1939-the one where ‘Gone With the Wind’ beat all comers by sweeping the board- and nominated for a career defining turn in ‘Dark Victory’ Davis discovers beforehand, via an article in the press, that she has been robbed of her third Oscar by Vivien Leigh’s classic performance as spoilt Southern belle Scarlett O’ Hara. Deciding not to attend the diva sulks her way back to her hotel room ignoring the remonstrations of her mother, referred to throughout as Ruthie, to attend and play the role of gracious loser. In the interim she runs the audience through all the trials, tribulations and successes which have thus far driven her career and brought her to the heady heights of stardom leading her into expecting to get exactly what she wants.

 William Wyler, Olivia De Havilland, her psychic mother who is prone to premonitions and Jack Warner are all given the Davis invective as well as some less sour observations. She goes on to detail the difficulties she has faced by not conforming-nor willing to even try to do so- the Hollywood stereotypes of what is expected of their leading ladies. Fighting for every decent role she played, a hysterical encounter is fabulously acted out with Warner and Busby Berkeley over a totally unsuited part in a musical where you would swear all three participants in the scene were present.

 Jessica Sherr is a tour de force in this show and the opulent room staging this drama was full to bursting with many being unable to gain entry even after the show had commenced. Sherr’s enunciation was pitch perfect and she has the iconic Davis intonation and expressions down pat; humour and vitriol are afforded equal opportunities. She even wears a pair of Davis’s evening gloves to lend the proceedings a sense of authenticity.

 As good as anything else you will see this year catch this show now as if Sherr brings it back again guaranteed it will not languish in the Free Fringe, as the script and her performance are worth every penny she may choose to charge in the future.


Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies is on at the Fiddler’s Elbow at 12.45pm until August 24th

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