Marilyn a witty take on celebrity and feminism in the 1960s (4 stars)

Marilyn a witty take on celebrity and feminism in the 1960s

Two strong-willed women wrestling to be taken seriously in male-dominated society

Certain actresses have an image that resonates throughout popular culture long after their departure from the silver screen. Almost none have remained as morbidly fascinating as Marilyn Monroe, and her appeal is explored compellingly in Sue Glover’s new play.

Set in the spring and summer of 1960, Marilyn tracks the turbulent relationship that developed between Monroe (played by Frances Thorburn) with Oscar-winning French actress, Simone Signoret (Dominique Hollier) when America’s favourite blonde bombshell returned from New York to Hollywood to film Let’s Make Love with Signoret’s husband, Yves Montand. The French couple live in the Beverly Hills Hotel, in an apartment adjacent to that of Monroe and her husband du jour, playwright Arthur Miller. The two women strike up an uneasy friendship, filled with differing opinions and insecurity on both sides, refereed by acerbic New York hair stylist and wisecracking one-woman support network, Patti (Pauline Knowles).

Thorburn’s voice is perfect for the role, mixing sweet, honey-tinged croons with erratic outbursts and all three women offer strong, nuanced performances that highlight the characters’ individual likeable qualities and failings.

While Monroe’s look, persona and fragile state of mind in the years before her death are largely pinpointed by Thorburn, it is clear that Glover’s re-telling is about more than a cheap caricature of a movie icon. Glover, best known for Bondagers as well as her writing for radio and television, poignantly highlights how two fiercely independent women still end up defining themselves through men.

What strikes most close to home is the depiction of two interesting, strong-willed women and polar opposites wrestling to be taken seriously by a male dominated society abandon sisterhood when men come between them. Overall it’s a witty take on celebrity and feminism in the 1960s that still resonates in the present day.

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, until Fri 11 Mar; Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Tue 15 Mar–Sat 2 Apr


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