Dan Crawford is one of the last, great fringe entrepreneurs. He's been at it so long and given so many fine young writers, directors, and actors their first break. But his theatre, the King's Head is under continual threat which can be the only reason why he decided to take in this strangely inert import from Devon. It has one thing going for it: it's about Marilyn Monroe. And even in death, bless her, she's still a draw.
Steve Black's Missing Marilyn
doesn't so much lay out the facts as rehash them - the abandoned, orphanage girl, Norma Jean behind the cinema legend that was Marilyn Monroe, the neurotic sex symbol who actually disliked sex. It's not exactly front page news.
All starts off promisingly enough. Marilyn, already well into her screen stride, has escaped and holed up in one of those wind-beaten motels so beloved of Sam Shepard (nicely evoked but no designer credit given). A dinner-suited waiter stands with a bottle of champagne intoning on how lonely it can be when the wind howls. Who is he? Ah, that would be telling. Suffice it to say that Andrew Crabb who plays this stranger will never have an easier pay-cheque, does it with aplomb and looks very pretty. You certainly wouldn't kick him out of bed and `Norma Jean' understandably takes him into hers.
Otherwise, well, it's just the same Norma/Marilyn story with no discernible dramatic surprises other than, again, to dance on Norma/Marilyn's grave. Not that it's done with anything like malice aforethought. There is nothing but good-will welling out from the stage as Sally Day, bearing a striking resemblance on certain occasions to Marilyn, unfolds, with clunky prompting from Mr Handsome Stranger and Good Listener (`and how did you come to be Marilyn Monroe?'; `so how did Hollywood make you a star?') the sad truths behind the public persona.
Yes, it's our old friend, dichotomy, back again - the contrast between public and private worlds; public glamour versus personal vulnerability.
It may be ever so lovingly done but sympathy and hand-me-down psychological `insights' really aren't sufficiently sparky to be interesting. That said Day, with her peroxide blonde hair, open innocent, sparkling eyes and that little pout of the lips that was so distinctively Marilyn's - both an invitation and Marilyn perhaps having her own little joke at public adoration - cuts a charming if not quite schizoid enough figure. Norma Jean, I suspect, would have loved it.