Fringe Online 2020
It’s that film with Gloria Gaynor and William Holden. We begin with a body in the swimming pool. A faded star of the silent screen, is tucked away on Sunset Boulevard, until one day, a hard luck writer hides his car in her garage. Their meeting begins a series of events that expose the harshness of a film industry which values numbers more than people. The effect of such brutality is a writer forced to find work that he can get, a love affair with a fellow writer that is doomed and a former star, doomed to play out her life in shadows when her life was designed for the lights, camera and action of Hollywood’s finest. The denouement, and death of the writer, bookends with the beginning, ending with him, in the pool face down.
What can go wrong with a classical text? Plenty. What went wrong here? Nothing.
Morag Fullarton delivers the essence of the film, the pithy lines, the cute one liners, the pathos and comic value of the piece with self-regard and reverence. It provides us with a classic tale told in a newly found classic manner. Theatrically this works because it does not descend into self parody but knows what it is and knows what it does well – and just keeps doing it. That is not to say that it is too respectful as it manages to break from the film and make enough comment about its creation in scenes with Billy Wilder that allow us to see what a brilliant piece of theatre this is.
The narrative structure, now driven by a script in the hand of the love interest, Betty Schaefer, is inspired. The film is driven by Joe Gillis, Holden’s character’s, narration, but here Betty takes the reigns and this makes it all the more effective and delightful; an alternate perspective without an investment in telling us what to think. We therefore see something that is well known afresh.
But anything fresh needs someone to tell it with guts, guile and attitude. Here there are four actors – Juliet Cadzow, John Kielty, Mark McDonnell and Frances Thorburn- who are hoaching with all three. The final scene delivered by Juliet Cadzow is, in itself, a masterclass in how to create a character from little and imbue it with all that you have delivered before. It is incredible. Simply to concentrate on the ability of one, however, does not do enough justice to the whole. Jon Kielty as Gillis is a brilliant foil, wide eyed and naïve with a hint of desperation whilst Frances Thorburn as Schaefer gives us hope and sass in equal measure. Mark McDonnell as the butler, first husband and director and everyone else is just a master of comic timing. Combined it is more than a tour de force; it is a sizzling feast for the eyes and ears.
I can see why the Oran Mor chose this to be up for the online promotion as it is simply classical work in a classical manner with class all over it. I laughed, I enjoyed and I marvelled. With the theatre arts in lighting, sound and the costumes all authentically traipsing across the internet it was a combination of creative joy that I just found mesmerising. It is this attention to detail, particularly from Kenny Miller with costume, that truly enhances the experience. It is easy often to gloss over what is not actor lead or writer based or the fantastic direction and just accept that costumes, light and the theatre arts are bit part supporting elements. Here it makes the entire experience a fully loaded one.
Roll on next week’s…