Reviewed by Ron Lee on 2nd August 2014
Ensemble Theatre until August 30
The Golden Age of Hollywood started in 1927 with The Jazz Singer, the first film that had synchronised sound, the first “talkie”, and ended along with the demise of the studio contract star system in the early 1960s.
John Misto’s new play, Dark Voyager is set in Hollywood in 1962, just before the end of The Golden Age, and puts in a room, two ageing, fading stars desperately clinging to their past glories, a younger star, a ruthless, influential gossip columnist and her young, male, aspiring actor servant.
Hedda Hopper (Belinda Giblin) is a feared journalist who has her fingernails on the pulse of Hollywood. Her tentacles reach far and wide and she has connections with high-level entities in Tinseltown, society and politics.
She has invited Bette Davis (Jeanette Cronin) and Joan Crawford (Kate Raison) to her house where the actresses think they are going to be interviewed about their new film, Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and they soon learn that there is a more sinister, ulterior motive.
There are the references to CIA chief J. Edgar Hoover’s cross-dressing, Bette Davis’ alleged murder of husband, Arthur Farnsworth, Joan Crawford’s brief affair with Marilyn Monroe, Crawford’s obsessive hatred of wire coat hangers and her relationship with daughter Christina that were made famous in Mommie Dearest. The clichés were there as well as an endless flow of bitchy one-liners coming from Crawford’s and Davis’ well-documented hatred of each other; “You look like Frankenstein’s mother on a bad hair day”.
The one-line insults and whiplash-inducing plot twists go a long way to sustaining interest in the long second act.
I’m continually impressed with the way in which the Ensemble Theatre manages to put practical sets on that small stage, and Designer Anna Gardiner has come up with the ideal creation for this production.
There would have been the temptation to turn these well-known personalities into caricatures, but Director Anna Crawford is working with an excellent cast that blends the experience of Belinda Giblin, Kate Raison and Jeanette Cronin with the impressive skills of relative newcomers Eric Beecroft as Skip and Lizzie Mitchell as Marilyn Monroe.
For a fun evening at the theatre, go and see Dark Voyager at The Ensemble.