_2014BETTEDA_8XBette Davis Ain’t For Sissies

Moving from last year’s Free Fringe-when I recommended it wholeheartedly- Jessica Sher and her production seem perfectly at home in the upmarket and opulent surroundings of the prestigious Assembly Rooms. A remarkable leap by anyone’s standards and one that feels wholly deserved.
Focussing on Oscar night 1939 when ‘Gone With The Wind’ swept the board and Davis and her role in ‘dark Victory’ were overlooked in favour of Vivien Leigh’s Scarlett O’ Hara. Sweeping out of the ceremony after learning this news in advance Davis returns home where she pours a stiff drink and lights one of many cigarettes while she reflects on those she holds responsible for her loss which if she had won would have meant she would have taken home her third Oscar. Run ins with director and former lover William Wyler are recounted as is her affair with Howard Hughes whilst friendly jibes at Olivia De Havilland are punctuated with not so friendly ones at Vivien Leigh.
Sher captures the nuances of the Davis diction as well as many of her facial tics and expressions. It is a commendable performance which keeps the audience in its thrall and it is punctuated all the while with incessant phone calls to and from Ruthie-her mother- who pleads with Davis to return to the ceremony and accept her defeat graciously but it is all to no avail. Bitchy, winsome, gossipy, thoughtful, articulate and intelligent; these are all traits of Davis which appear during the show’s duration and each one to great effect.
Vey much at home in the Assembly Rooms this production is still as enjoyable as it was last year and those discovering it for the first time will find it a mid-afternoon delight.
Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies is at The Assembly Rooms until August 25th at 2.45pm.

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