Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Evie Edwards is clinging on; to the Hollywood sign; to life itself. But how did she get here?
It’s 1949. Truman is President, Marilyn Monroe is a little known model who poses nude for an art calendar in order to recover her impounded car and nobody has ever heard of Evie Edwards. But there she is, clinging to that iconic sign dominating the Los Angeles skyline, hanging on to an “h” that might stand for hope, rather than the place name where the dreams of few were made and where many were irreparably shattered.
Meet Evelyn Margaret Edwards, the girl with stars in her eyes but a tenuous grasp on reality. Writer/actor Joanne Hartstone takes us through the poignant story of Edwards, from her impoverished upbringing in the US depression of the 1930’s to her increasingly desperate attempts to forge a career in the bright lights. It’s a bittersweet reminder that many lives hang by a thread, one small step from plunging back down the slippery slope up which they have scrambled in search of the promised land, a better, more comfortable life, one in which they are noticed, are someone, not no-one.
Most people working in the performing arts will recognise the challenges Edwards faced. Roll forward 65 years and you’ll find many at the Fringe who could relate to this story. Hartstone plays Edwards with a real empathy, with accent, movement and mannerisms redolent of her subject and the era in which this piece is set. She has a nice voice as well, a husky contralto as happy to be singing with music as without.
It’s touching and thought-provoking stuff. People will go to extraordinary lengths to achieve their ambitions, irrespective of whether they have even the remotest degree of talent. Dreams take over from reality but when the bubble bursts, what is left? To whom can you turn in an industry that still eats up and spits out unwanted talent with calculating indifference.
One hopes that the fate we assume became Edwards (mirroring the death of the real actress, Peg Entwhistle, who leapt from that “h” back in 1932) does not befall Hartstone herself. She’s far too much talent to remain unnoticed in the manner of her unfortunate subject matter.
This is a piece of well researched, consummately delivered and interesting theatre with a firm yet subtle message. Can’t recommend it more highly than that.