WORLD PREMIÈRE: ASSEMBLY FESTIVAL - EDINBURGH FRINGE, AUGUST 2018
Edinburgh Fringe Reviews 2018
THE SCOTSMAN 22/08/18 - SHEER POWER OF THE STORY RIVETS THE ATTENTION!
As Elton John observed, "all the papers had to say/ was that Marilyn was found in the nude";; and that combination of leering prurience and punitive self-righteousness fitted like a glove around the idea that this gorgeous, free-spirited sex-symbol of a woman had come to an inevitable bad end, overdosing on sleeping pills in despair over the end of her third marriage, and the fact that at 36, she was no longer young, in Hollywood actress years. The only trouble with this powerful yarn was that, as the decades rolled by, it began to unravel, and to be exposed by one writer after another as a tissue of lies. The Marilyn Conspiracy, an imperfect but utterly gripping new drama by Guy Masterson and Vicki McKellar, set in the living room of Marilyn's Hollywood house in the six hours after her death, tells, to the best of our current knowledge, the shocking story of how and why that narrative was constructed, by the seven people closest to Marilyn at the time.
It's a measure of the sheer power of the story, though, that the play rivets the attention nonetheless, as the two doctors in the room, and even Marilyn's furious friend Pat Newcomb, are gradually worn down into conniving with the suicide narrative. And most remarkable of all, 56 years on, is the extent to which this tale of casual sexual exploitation in Hollywood, and of powerful men willing to go to any lengths to silence women who might expose them, meshes perfectly with the #metoo moment in which we now find ourselves. Marilyn, too, knew all about sexual abuse in and around her industry; and it seems she may have paid the ultimate price of those who know too much, and who threaten to break their silence. (Joyce McMillan - The Scotsman - 22/08/18)
THE WEE REVIEW 13/08/18 - EDGE OF THE SEAT GRIPPING!
Marilyn Monroe died on August 5th 1962 of a supposed sleeping pill overdose but not everyone believes this to be true; several conspiracy theories surround the Hollywood icon's death and one such conspiracy theorist is co-writer of this piece, Vicki McKellar, who also stars in the play.
McKellar admits long having a fascination with the life and death of Marilyn Monroe, reading everything she could get her hands on. It was this in-depth reading which lead her to combine her love of the American actress with her screenwriting, and over time, and in collaboration with director, Guy Masterson, produce, The Marilyn Conspiracy.
Seven people were present at Monroe's house between the time of her death and several hours later when the police were eventually called. In this play the seven 'characters' are placed at the scene and the audience listen on as the ensuing conversations take place. Was it suicide or was it murder? And if it was murder, who killed Marilyn?
It is an edge-of-your-seat, gripping story and the audience are drawn in to Monroe's living room setting and to the tangled web of information which comes to light over the 75 minutes. Much as people do when they watch a crime drama on television each character is constantly scrutinised, eyes moving round the scene noticing every nuance in a bid to try and work out what is happening.
It is a fascinating story and one which translates well to stage. Special mention should be made for Masterson standing in at the last minute as Dr Hyman Engelberg. If it hadn't been mentioned at the beginning of the play nobody would have noticed, so assured and convincing was the performance.
Other notable performances come from Sally Mortemore as Mrs Eunice Murray, Marilyn's housekeeper, and Susie Amy as Pat Newcomb, PA and Secretary who was staying at Monroe's house in her final days. The hope is to take the show on to the West End in London and on tour round the UK and on this Edinburgh Fringe showing it would surely be a success. (Aisling McGuire - The Wee Review - 13/08/18)
BRITISH THEATRE GUIDE 10/08/18 - INTRIGUING - WILL SET TONGUES WAGGING
Nobody could accuse Guy Masterson of shirking. To start with, he is starring in A Christmas Carol and producing two cod-Shakespeare plays across town.
His major project for 2018 was always going to be co-writing and directing The Marilyn Conspiracy. However, he did not additionally expect to be replacing an actor who had fallen by the wayside at the beginning of the run. Pleasingly, the writer / director / actor was off the book halfway through the festival and nobody would have realised that he had not been fully rehearsed into his role.
Writers love conspiracy theories but then so do theatregoers. We all know that Marilyn Monroe died far too early, having taken an overdose in a lonely, distraught state. Well, we did.
The writers of this large-scale (for Edinburgh) play believe they have discovered that the reason for a six-hour delay in notifying the authorities of the actress's demise might have been far more sinister than anyone had previously imagined.
It quickly becomes clear that British actor Peter Lawford, a brother-in-law of the Kennedys played in this production by Oliver Farnworth, knows far more than he should about the circumstances and has what appears to be a vested interest in a cover-up.
Constantly goaded by the deceased star's close friend Pat Newcomb, played by Susie Amy, the actor is eventually forced to make what almost amounts to a confession, although his main motivation was to protect a couple of high-profile characters from accusations of complicity in what might have been a murder investigation.
If this all sounds vague, that is a compliment to the writer of this review. It would be far too easy to reveal the identities of the purported murderers, which would spoil the experience of anyone intending to see this Edinburgh show or, if the producers have their way, a national tour that might end with a long West End run.
Whether the theory is a close approximation to reality or hokum is something for the historians to debate debate but it is intriguing and will set tongues wagging. (Phillip Fisher - British Theatre Guide - 10/08/18)
DAILY BUSINESS MAGAZINE - 09/08/18 - RICH ENTERTAINING THEATRE
It's more than 50 years since Marilyn Monroe died and the manner of her death continues to be the subject of speculation. Was it really suicide, or was there something more sinister going on? Her connections with John and Robert Kennedy, and their subsequent deaths only adds to the rumour mill, opening up other interpretations and allowing for ever larger conspiracies to emerge.
The Marilyn Conspiracy is the product of four years work and 19 drafts and main writer Vicki McKellar has carried out painstaking research to put the project together. The result is a rich production that fleshes out one of the most common theories about Monroe's death and offers an explanation as to why suicide had to remain the official verdict.
The action takes place a few hours after the actress's body was discovered as seven people assemble at her home. They include psychiatrists, doctors, friends and a member of the Kennedy family. As they work through the events of the evening, trying to establish exactly when Monroe died and whether anything else could have been done to save her, doubts and questions emerge.
The cast play out the courtroom style drama with great finesse, each of them defending themselves from accusations and either seeking to discover the truth or cling on to the suicide verdict that has yet to be pronounced.
The production does't offer any theories that haven't been heard before, but it does put flesh on the bones of some of them and provides an entertaining piece of theatre in the process. (Andy Moseley - Daily Business Magazine - 09/08/18)
EXCELLENT SHOW - FRINGEREVIEW - 09/08/18 - A TENSE THRILLER!
A tense thriller re-imagining the events directly following the discovery of Marilyn Monroe's body. Seven people argue about what happened, why it happened and what they should do next.
Marilyn Monroe died on the night of 5th August 1962 at her home in Los Angeles, California. Her death was ruled as 'probable suicide' by an overdose of the sedative drugs, empty bottles of pills being found near her body.
Like the untimely deaths of other celebrities who had reached a stratospheric level of fame, from Elvis Presley to Kurt Cobain, the death of Marilyn Monroe has been plagued by conspiracy theories since the first media announcement that it had occurred. Over the years, theories have been espoused ranging from her being murdered by the mafia or kidnapped by aliens to her death actually being faked and her still being alive somewhere, probably on a tropical island. One of the more plausible possibilities is the involvement of the Kennedys " Marilyn was famously rumoured to have had affairs with both President John F. Kennedy and his brother Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy.
Potential Kennedy involvement is the thread picked up by Guy Masterson and Vicki McKellar in this fascinating new work. Seven people enter the realistic 1950s-style living room set and arrange and adjust vases and other props before taking their seats, ready to show us a story. Marilyn's housekeeper Eunice Murray, her two doctors " her psychiatrist Dr Ralph Greenson, accompanied by his wife, and her medical doctor Dr Hyman Engelberg (in this production played by writer Guy Masterton, doing a wonderful job stepping in last minute for an actor who unfortunately had to drop out due to an incident with his family), her best friend and press secretary Pat Newcomb, and Rat Pack actor Peter Lawford with his wife Patricia who was also sister to Jack and Bobby Kennedy. They're all in shock. Marilyn is dead. She's in the next room. The police haven't been called yet. Peter needs a drink and Eunice brings champagne " it's all Marilyn has in the house, apparently.
The tension between Peter Lawford and Pat Newcomb comes to the fore immediately, as she attacks him for drinking champagne when Marilyn's body is in the next room. The semantics of the language used are unpacked " when Dr Greenson says she was anxious, upset, angry, distressed " are these similar emotions on the same continuum, or do they mean very different things? Which one was she? Blame bounces around the room as the very strange and inconsistent circumstances surrounding Marilyn's death emerge. Was her body cleaned up and moved? How did Peter know to come to the house, and who has he been talking to on the phone? What was the cause of her death? Was Marilyn pregnant? Was she a communist? Did she know state secrets and write them in her diary?
Peter is clear on one thing " they need a consistent account (or "story";, as Pat says bitterly) to present to the police. There can be no inconsistencies. With the world's media always ready to pounce and the potential ramifications this could have on American politics, self-preservation becomes the name of the game and Peter is intent on presenting to the others, through a combination of strong-arm threats, murky details and unpleasant logic, exactly what they must say happened. Not only must they say it to the police, they must stick to this version of events until the day they die.
In a stand-out performance, Susie Amy's Pat is the only person who seems to genuinely care about the truth and Marilyn's reputation. She just can't believe Marilyn committed suicide and her despair and frustration is palpable. Oliver Fanworth's Peter is unpleasant, misogynistic and manipulative, using every method at his disposal to force the others to do what he wants. Fanworth makes Peter intensely unlikeable but never crosses the line into caricature. The conflict between these two strong characters is what drives the action.
After a static start " mainly talking heads with fixed positions around the room " the pace, conflict and tension pick up and the flurry of names, times and details thrown at us highlights exactly how difficult it is to pinpoint exactly what happened, putting us right there in the action just as confused as the characters are (with the exception of Peter, who clearly knows a lot more about what happened than he is letting on).
In the style of "12 Angry Men", this show explores the subjective nature of truth, as "facts"; are questioned, skewed and discredited. Who can really testify to Marilyn's state of mind? As the previously tight-lipped and hard to read Eunice Murray, whose employment with Marilyn has clearly involved a high level of discretion, finally admits certain things, the show seems to offer a conclusion on what might have happened and why everybody involved lied about it.
If you enjoy well-crafted, dialogue-driven theatre in the realist tradition, or you're a fan of Marilyn Monroe (and aren't we all?) then this show is a diverting afternoon which will leave you with a lot of fascinating questions and a desire to find out more. (Erin Hutching - FringeReview - 09/08/18)
EDINBURGH GUIDE - 10/08/18 - BREATHTAKING AND COMPELLING!
New York Times: "Hollywood, Calif., Aug. 5, 1962 -- Marilyn Monroe, one of the most famous stars in Hollywood's history, was found dead early today in the bedroom of her home in Brentwood, Los Angeles. She was 36 years old. Beside the bed was an empty bottle that had contained sleeping pills. ..an arm was stretched across the bed and a hand hung limp on a telephone. The Police were called at 4.20am. Inspector Edward Walker said, "So far as the doctors were concerned, there was no evidence of crime."
Following the post-mortem by the Deputy Medical Examiner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the cause of death was "probable suicide";. It was believed likely that Monroe was driven to despair after the abrupt end of her love affair with President Kennedy. Less than three months earlier on May 19th she had sung "Happy Birthday, Mr President" at Madison Square Garden after which she never saw him again. What actually happened on that last day and evening of Marilyn Monroe's life is still shrouded in mystery.
The setting is the lounge of Marilyn's bungalow, with modest, modern design & decor - rattan wicker sofa and chairs dressed with gold velvet cushions, a lamp, Art books, coffee table, telephone. An open door leads to the bedroom where her cold, blue-tinged body is lying, Rigor Mortis has not yet set in. The time is around 1am on Sunday 5th August.
Three men and four women slowly enter the room to take a seat or stand at the side, with an expression of shock on each face. They are Marilyn's housekeeper, Eunice Murray, Dr Ralph Greenson, her psychiatrist and his wife Hildi, Dr. Engelberg, her medical doctor, the actor Peter Lawford, his wife, Patricia Kennedy-Lawford, (a sister of Jack and Bobby Kennedy), and her Press Secretary, Pat Newcomb,
Like Mrs White, Miss Scarlett, Professor Plum et al, in the board game, Cluedo, they wait at the side until one makes the first move. With a loud shriek, Pat breaks the silence, "What happened?"; she demands to know. Dressed in silk pyjamas and hair in a tousled ponytail, she is the most emotionally upset, dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief. The bare, basic facts are revealed about Eunice finding Marilyn collapsed in the Guest house on Saturday evening about 10.30pm. Dr. Greenson rushed over to administer adrenaline and despite CPR by paramedics she passed away within an hour.
Looking as if he just stepped off a yacht in a navy polo and white chinos, Peter appears to take control of the situation with a sly, sycophantic smile. As if this is a social occasion, he calmly opens a bottle of champagne, " No, don't call the police"; he says firmly, "we have to discuss how to release the news";.
And so a fierce round of questioning begins with each person put in the spotlight as on trial: Dr. Greenson describes her mental state, Dr Engelberg confirms a prescription for Nembutal sleeping pills, Eunice admits that Bobby Kennedy had visited the house that afternoon. "I never did like the Kennedys,"; murmurs Hildi which infuriates the glamorous Patricia in her slim red dress, looking annoyed that she had to leave a party to come here. Pat is almost hysterical, saying that Marilyn was not suicidal but happy, and just signed a two picture deal.
With the audience sitting just a few feet away, we feel we are there in the room, eavesdropping every word, every lie, watching every glance and gesture: Peter's increased panic in his voice, Dr Engelberg's gradual state of nervousness and sweating brow, shifting in his chair, Dr. Greenson, is getting confused about what he saw, what he did, while Eunice, sits with her head in hands, shaking with despair and fear. Who, why, when .. a volley of accusations ricochot like bullets around the chilling atmosphere. It is all so utterly realistic.
With precise period designs, and immaculate, mannered performances all round, the cool, crisp action is gracefully choreographed by Guy Masterson, as the tension rises and the time ticks on towards 4.20am.
The real life scenario surrounding Marilyn's death is conceived like a typical Agatha Christie novel in which the group of murder suspects is gathered in a drawing room for the final denouement, masterminded by Hercule Poirot before he reaches his conclusion and names the culprit.
This is the world premiere of a bold, breathtaking, compelling crime drama, in which these seven friends, seven witnesses, seven suspects are brought together to admit the unbelievable truth. Fact is far stranger and shocking than fiction. (Vivien Devlin - Edinburgh Guide - 10/08/18)
Punters' Reviews - Edinburgh 2018
Sean Davis 23/08/18 - After discovering Marilyn Monroe dead, six people gather in her living room to try to determine what happened before calling the police. Presumably much of the script tries to construct of chain of events to explain the facts revealed well after the inquest that found her to have committed suicide. The play becomes unnecessarily repetitive because the script tries to explain the delay in calling the police by having the participants learn of key facts a little at a time and re-hash their thoughts with each new fact.
Chris Newman 20/08/18 - An excellent performance by all of a well-constructed script that sets out an entirely credible theory that Marilyn Monreo did not die by her own hand. Well worth seeing. Congratulations to cast and crew.
Mrs F 20/08/18 - I was absolutely hooked watching this play. From the minute the play started to the very end, they had my attention to detail of what actually happened in the first few hours after Marilyn's death. It had me so captivated, that I am still replaying the evidence in my mind days after. The acting was fantastic I was completely drawn in to the story. This will be a huge success and go far. So pleased I can say I was at the start of this shows journey. Well done to all involved.
Moyra Flynn 17/08/18 - Saw this show with 3 friends. We all loved it. Excellent performances from the cast. We were all old enough to remember this happening.Reinforced the suspicions which have always been there.
Agnes Joyce Wells 16/08/18 - Enjoyed the show. Really made you think about happened. I found the production well crafted, but perhaps a bit too much hysteria at times. This was repititious and the only criticism I would make. I would recommend.
Donal McCay 10/08/18 - Great theatre. Everyone remembers Marilyn. (Even those born after her mysterious death.) The play may well tell the truth about her death and it is really shocking. Very well written and directed and beautifully performed by an outstanding ensemble - this is a must-see.
Christine McDerment 07/08/18 - Was at the "World Premiere". A Guy Masterson production is always a sign of quality and this was no different. A thought provoking and realistic piece about what might have occurred in the hours after Marilyn's death. Learnt quite a few new things which certainly seemed to make sense within the production. Perhaps one day it all will be revealed.
Michael Godsman 03/08/18 - A play that requires your full attention and is thought provoking and entertaining at the same time.
VICKY MCKELLAR - Originator & Co-writer
After graduating from Italia Conti Stage School for the Performing Arts, she started out singing in bands. She also played in Our Friends In The NortH and Bugs 4. After studying at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in New York, she appeared on stage in both London and New York in Three Sisters, Time And The Conways and Love's Labours Lost. In 2004, she played the Brothel Madam in Channel 4's Queer As 18th Century Folk. She also appeared in I Know You Know starring Robbie Carlyle. In 2009, she wrote and produced a short film for her own indie film company, Tapestry Film Productions. In 2010, she wrote and produced her first play Paradise Lost, at Leicester Square Theatre starring Abi Titmuss. Vicki started writing Marilyn: Her Final Days in 2014 and teamed up with Guy Masterson in 2015. We then retitled it The Marilyn Conspiracy. It's taken 4 years and 19 drafts to reach its World Premiere! @VickiPMcKellar
GUY MASTERSON - Co-Writer & Director (click for additional biographical material)
After obtaining a Joint Honours degree in Biochemistry and Chemistry from Cardiff University in 1982, Guy studied drama at UCLA's School of Drama and started as an actor in 1985 in Hollywood. He returned to the UK in 1989 to study further at LAMDA. He is an multi-award winning actor, playwright, director, producer, international presente, dramaturg and renowned acting and executive coach.
Following a conventional start in plays, film and television, Guy began solo performing in 1991 with The Boy's Own Story and thence Under Milk Wood in 1994 and Animal Farm in 1995. He first produced/directed in 1993 with Playing Burton and participated at the Edinburgh Fringe for the first time in 1994. The following 26 seasons saw his association with many of Edinburgh's most celebrated hits, and his company became EdFringe's most awarded independent theatre producer - garnering 8 Scotsman Fringe Firsts, 3 Herald Angels, 25 Stage Award nominations (including 4 wins) together with numerous lesser awards. Guy also directed two of Edinburgh's biggest grossing dramatic hits 12 Angry Men and The Odd Couple (2005) both starring Bill Bailey, and originated One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (2004) with Christian Slater and Mackenzie Crook which went on to two sixteen week seasons in the West End. His 2009 production of Morecambe also transferred to London's West End and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment - plus another nomination for the actor playing Eric). At Edinburgh 2014 his epic 30 actor production of Animal Farm with Tumanishvili Film Actors Theatre of Tbilisi, Georgia, won the Stage Award for Best Ensemble.
As a performer, he was nominated for The Stage Award for Best Actor for A Soldier's Song (1998). He won The Stage Best Actor in 2001 for Fern Hill & Other Dylan Thomas. He was nominated for Best Solo Performance for Under Milk Wood in 2003 and again for Shylock in 2011. In 2003, he also received Edinburgh's most prestigious accolade, The Jack Tinker Spirit of the Fringe Award. At Edinburgh 2016 he created his first overtly stand-up comic piece Barking Mad! which then toured to Perth and Adelaide. At Edinburgh 2017, he directed Hollywood star, Michael Brandon in his debut stand-up piece Off Ramps. At Edinburgh 2018, along with performing A Christmas Carol, he co-wrote, produced and directedThe Marilyn Conspiracy. At Edinburgh 2019, he directed Owen O'Neill's brilliant black comedy, Shaving The Dead along with the smash hit of EdFringe 19 The Shark Is Broken - the back story of the making of Jaws, starring Ian Shaw, Robert Shaw's son. This transferred to London's West End in October 2022 and was Olivier Award nominated for Best New Comedy.
Most recently, he directed 9 Circles by Bill Cain at the Park Theatre and Edinburgh 2022 while The Shark Is Broken played at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto for 7 weeks.
His theatrical commitments have largely kept him out of mainstream film and television, however, he has made the obligatory appearance on Casualty (Christmas Special 2004) and has been the Franziskaner Monk - the main character of the premium German beer - since 2007. He also writes plays, screenplays and poetry.
His passion is to bring great ideas to life and new talent to the stage.
He is married to Brigitta and father to Indigo and Tallulah...
I've been fascinated by Marilyn Monroe since my teens... her beauty, her allure and charisma drew me to her... but there was also a sense of sadness and loneliness which I recognised in myself. They say you are attracted to what you see in yourself, and I was certainly drawn to Marilyn''s sadness. It was something deep within..... something untouchable.... but definitely there, so I started reading about her. Firstly, I read all the books I could about her life. Of course, they all touched on how she died, which was supposedly... suicide but then, in about 1996, I read Matthew Smith's, '7;The Men Who Murdered Marilyn';. Matthew''s research was so thorough exposing so much suspicious activity surrounding her death it left many unanswered questions... If she'd only committed suicide, why the suspicions which seemed to reach right up to the highest echelons of power? Another book, '7;The Strange Death of Marilyn Monroe'; by Frank A.Cappell also alluded to unanswered questions and pointed to a cover-up. Finally, after reading, Matthew Smith's second book on the subject, '7;Victim: The Secret Tapes of Marilyn Monroe';, I was convinced that Marilyn had not died by her own hand. I'd entered the seemingly limitless world of internet conspiracy theories, facts, myths and rumours. In 2014, with a mountain of my own research now at my disposal, I had the urge to put pen to paper and start writing a script for the stage which I provisionally titled, Marilyn - Her Final Days. I met Guy in 2015 when I visited him for acting coaching to help me work on the character of Marilyn - whom it had been my dream to play... and here we are, after 3 years of collaboration, 19 drafts and 5 full cast readings, The Marilyn Conspiracy is finally being born. I am more than happy with the finished script - finessed brilliantly by our fabulous cast, and even though I am not playing Marilyn - for reasons that will become apparent, I'm thrilled to be acting in my own play surrounded by such a talented ensemble and to bring what I believe is the truth of Marilyn''s untimely demise to the stage. Vicki McKellar
Nearly sixty years since her death at 36, she remains the world's most famous screen icon. Millions of words and hundreds of books have been written about her life. She remains an object of fascination and adoration even to many who have never seen her work. Her star only shone for a decade, but her movies had already grossed over £200m by the time she died in August 1962
Until my co-writer Vicki McKellar approached me with the idea for this play 3 years ago, I had very little knowledge about her. I had heard the rumours of her involvement with the Kennedy brothers, Jack and Bobby, and I remember having seen a documentary about the suspicions surrounding her sudden death, but it didn't really lodge in my consciousness... until I read Vicki's draft script.
Vicki was and is convinced that Marilyn's death was not suicide and her research into the facts was so assiduous it didn't take much to convince me. There were 7 people present bewteen the hours of 10.35 when Marilyn was found unconscious to the moment they finally called the police at 04:25. What the hell did they talk about while Marilyn was lying dead in the other room?
I came on board initially to 'dramaturg' the piece, to ensure all the facts were clear, the arguments surrounding them, logical and cogent and to ensure the presence of a dramatic arc. I'd had the phenomenal experience of directing and playing in two of the finest theatrical arguments in Reginald Rose's 12 Angry Men and David Mamet's Oleanna, so I was certain it could be done, but where was the heartbeat of the piece? Well, we certainly found it and I will not give that away as it is for you to experience. By the end of this play, we feel you too will not be in any doubt as to what really happened that night, and exactly why and how Marilyn's death entered the history books as 'Probable Suicide.' Guy Masterson
I started the design process by researching the house in Brentwood where Marilyn died. I was very surprised by what I found. It was not at all what I expected from the ultimate Hollywood glamazon! It was very modest, simple and rustic- essentially a bungalow in the Spanish style. No gilded mirrors, white velvet sofas or sleek Danish teak. In fact quite the opposite; a mismatch of rustic Spanish furniture, rattan, cosy ethnic pillows and a clutter of holiday souvenirs, books and newspapers. An unpretentious, very real home for someone who had always craved a simple family life. Researching further I learned that she had recently been on a trip to Mexico, and had arranged for new furniture to arrive on August 6, the Monday after she died. Another small reason the verdict of Probable Suicide makes less sense. Marilyn was creating her first home of her own
But the simple nature of her real decor posed an issue: Would our audience be disappointed by a shabby, mismatched, cluttered set? Would they think we couldn't afford to 'do' Hollywood at the Edinburgh Fringe!? Would they know where we are? While it's essential the audience knows that the play takes place in Marilyn's house, the play is more about exposing the truth- untangling the fact from the fiction. Marilyn spoke often about trying to find 'truth' in her performances. So we decided to honour her- and present as truthful a representation of her home at that time as possible.
Researching further into the forensic minutiae of her life, such as what books she was reading, the records was she listening to and what was on her shelves, I also poured over the ground plans of the house and pieced together police photographs of the scene to build a more complete picture. I then sourced furniture and props as close to reality as possible.
However, in all this 'truth' I still felt something was missing; Marilyn the Myth and Marilyn the Woman are inseparable but in a constant tug-of-war. She'd created a character, Hollywood ran with it, and everything surrounding her life and death was entirely artificial. Indeed The play opens with the myth, exposes it, and of course closes with it and it's this sense of artifice, and the fragility of the true Marilyn trapped in the centre of it, that led me to start thinking of the set as a Hollywood sound stage with bright studio lights beaming down onto the bed on which her body lies. A sense of intrusion and constant surveillance (her house was discovered by renovators in the mid-1970's to be heavily wire-tapped. She'd lived in a fish bowl. Everyone present in her living room in the hours after Marilyn died was essentially a player - bound to live out the lie of her death until their own and no truth, except that of the bruised blonde woman, stripped of all her Hollywood trappings, laying on the bed in the next room. Sarah June Mills.