Hello Norma Jeane at Park Theatre
In this production the greatest sex symbol of all time is played by a 76-year-old woman. Could there be a better way of confronting issues of ageing and the transitory nature of celebrity? We are in 2003 and Essex grandmother Lynnie has escaped to LA from her nursing home, with the plan of revealing her deepest secret: that she is Marilyn Monroe. The plot is intriguing but the acting sometimes falls flat.
Hammond’s motel room set is simple and works well with the limited space, however, the acting does not necessarily benefit from the intimate theatre, which highlights mistakes that might not be noticed in a larger setting. This is not to say the acting is bad; Vicki Michelle is an engaging Lynnie, she is believable, despite the line slip-ups, and conveys both frailty and an extraordinary vitality of spirit. At first, Jamie Hutchin’s (as Joe, Lynnie’s gay grandson) overacts, particularly when he is attempting to comprehend his grandmother’s revelation. Having said this, his performance improves in the second half. There are moments of beautifully executed tenderness between himself and Michelle that could easily bring a tear to the eye.
The first half of the play feels a little like a warm-up exercise. The plot drags and the acting occasionally falls into the realm of cliché, which is a shame considering the originality of the plot. Farrel Hegarty fails to capture the nuances of Marilyn’s character; while she is supposed to be slightly clichéd, because she is the product of Joe’s imagination, she does not give anything new or exciting to the role. On the other hand, her Carla, a self-absorbed reporter, is extremely convincing and comic. The second half is significantly tighter and funnier, with the bed is used to its full potential as a prop by Bobby and Joe.
The main criticism of the play is in the characterisation of Bobby. This is in no way because of the acting, more because he is a stereotyped American gay, in a play which is attempting to change the way theatre presents homosexuals. His role description is essentially to take off his clothes and occasional spout gnomic wisdoms that fall flat with the audience.
This is a warm-hearted and at times very funny play. With more polish it has the potential to go far. It is unpredictable, which is its greatest charm.
Hello Norma Jeane is on at the Park Theatre from 23rd February until 19th March 2016, for further information or to book visit here.