Edinburgh Fringe 2017
This is a tour de force for the subject of the play, Nazimova as we get taken on a journey from her humble beginnings in the Crimea, through the training which was both exhilarating and arduous before she found herself, through her own endeavours at Hollywood. Once there she became the biggest star of all, earning the coveted star on Hollywood Boulevard and the envy of all who witnessed her beauty.
One woman makes an entrance and declares herself for the modern age. She is gender fluid, relaxed and sexually liberated in ways that make us wonder what all the fuss has been about. She proceeds to entertain notions of her grandeur in a solo show that is intriguing and beguiling as she was bigger than Mary Pickford – way bigger – but perhaps not so well known now.
Before that Nazimova had trained in Moscow under Nemerovich, been engaged under Stanislavski after managing to escape from the poor Crimean childhood that threatened to imprison her and become a star in Hollywood. Managing to achieve fame partly thanks to a marriage of convenience to Charles Bryant, her demise came thanks to her masterpiece, Salome. This was accompanied by that marriage suddenly becoming an inconvenience to Bryant.
The themes of the times are well imagined as we get a snapshot of a period that many would claim more innocent but which actually appears to be just as poisonous as today as Nazimova was to discover that those who claim to love you can just as well despise your fame and be instrumental in your fall.
Whilst the script showed some subtle touches, at times there was just a little too much comment and unnecessary justification at the expense of the narrative. It was also, at times, attempting to engage with today when my fascination was tickled about yesteryear. The direction though managed to keep things on track and whilst I did find some of the script laborious, the movement and the character was so engaging it distracted most of my concerns.
The video material at the beginning was helpful but relatively quickly became a memory as the themes it alluded to were undercurrents rather than obvious talking points. It increased the impression of a very subtle piece and whilst the character was never hard to reach and the whole of Nazimova became an inescapable presence she was never suffocating.
By the end I was keen to learn more and particularly the revelation that someone with such expert training had ended up at the front of the Hollywood queue for payment was heartening. This was a magnificent piece of acting which managed to break through a script that had flaws as well as the fourth wall but this was a story I could do with hearing again as I was thoroughly entertained.