Review: Dark Voyager
In John Misto’s Dark Voyager the salacious lives of golden era movie stars are laid bare. Brimming with razor sharp, witty lines, the laughs come hard and fast in this high energy camp comedy. In truth though, I’m glad the playwright took the comedic route, because if it were a drama, it would be terribly depressing.
The year is 1962. In the lavish home of gossip scribe Hedda Hopper (a wonderfully bitchy Belinda Giblin), Misto has imagined an encounter between aging co-stars and long-time rivals, Bette Davis (Jeanette Cronin) and Joan Crawford (Kate Raison). Having finished work on Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, a film that would go on to become a classic, they instead think their careers are over because it is expected to be a massive flop. With top billing at stake, the claws are out and then in stumbles a barely conscious Marilyn Monroe (Lizzie Mitchell).
Misto has obviously read a lot of books about his subjects. He has said about “90 to 95 precent is based on facts”. What he does very well is keep it bright while uncovering some ugly truths that leave you unsurprised at the actresses’ Texas-sized problems with booze and drugs. The American public lapped up every detail of the lives of Davis, Crawford and Monroe and their ilk. It was a tough climb to the top and they succeeded where many had failed, such as Hopper’s house boy Skip, played by Eric Beecroft. And Hollywood was a mean town to grow old in.
Director Anna Crawford has done a terrific job with her gifted cast and together they create a well-dressed hell in the small Ensemble space. For me the standout performance is delivered by Cronin, who is positively fierce as Davis. The design team (Anna Gardiner - set, Matthew Marshall - lighting, Margaret Gill - wardrobe) add to the mix a great sense of time and place. The accents are spot on (props to dialect coach Nick Curnow) and actors look terrific in their 1960’s threads, especially Giblin, which is fitting, because apart from being slightly to the right of Genghis Khan, Hopper was also known for her fashion sense.
All in all, a good night in the theatre.
[Top image] Lizzie Mitchell as Marilyn Monroe in Dark Voyager. Photo: Supplied
Dark Voyager plays atThe Ensemble theatre until 30 August.
Bookings: (02) 9929 0644 or www.ensemble.com.au