Edinburgh Fringe 2018
An aspiring actress climbs the 50-foot H looking down on a city of broken dreams. She has only ever wanted one thing: to be a star. A play with music about the quest for fame, inspired by forgotten histories of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Written and performed by Joanne Hartstone.
Perhaps we are currently living in the age of celebrity, when you can be famous simply by being famous; image is everything. Joanne Hartstone’s performance takes us back to perhaps the genesis of this, the age of the American depression and World War II when Hollywood was the dream factory where dreams came true because of what you looked like, what you sounded like and of course who you knew, sound familiar? Evie Edwards (Hartstone’s character) stands on the giant H of the famous Hollywood sign preparing to end it all by jumping off because she hasn’t become a star, because she is unremarkable, because she is ordinary, because there is nothing about her that makes her stand out and be noticed.
The story of her life, being brought up by her gambling but hard working father during the depression is touchingly told. Hartstone has a natural magnetism and manages to make what is a relatively ordinary story interesting. We see an ordinary girl who if she was just a little more attractive, if she could sing a little better might become a star. But Hollywood is full of might become’s and we feel her pain as she realises that her dream will not come true no matter what personal sacrifices she is willing to make. Hartstone has a wonderful voice, very Judy Garland like, and manages easily to evoke the style of the day and the moments when she descends from the ‘H’ to relive memories are the highlights of this captivating performance. She convincingly plays her father, her dance teacher, an MGM executive and even Bette Davis as her sad tale evolves, and the moment in the Hollywood Canteen when she for once is in the spotlight is extremely moving.
But the end seems inevitable, and the sexism, exploitation and manipulation that drives Evie to her tragic end seem all too familiar still today, perhaps nothing has changed that much.
Joanne Hartstone has captivated audiences with her performance at other festivals around the world; she captivated me with her performance here and I feel sure she will captivate you.