Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Me & Jezebel is the true story of when Bette Davis invited herself to stay for an evening or two .. or three .. and then refused to leave. Starring Katy Manning, It’s a sort of transatlantic Lady In The Van, as we see a different, private side to a notoriously reclusive icon. It’s difficult to make a comparison to anyone today, where we know far too much about our slebs’s lives.
Katy is a warm and engaging host, who excitedly tells us the odd and curious events of her visitor’s over-long stay. You will have noticed the over-familiar use of ‘Katy’ as opposed to the actress’ full name, or Ms Manning. But this is somewhat the point – for a hour, you’re lost in something that is less a mannered theatre performance, more an intimate conversation: by the time you leave the space, you feel that you’ve made a new friend, one who’s a master story teller. Pleasingly, Ms Manning is able to riff on certain unique moments – a slightly late FX cue, an unexpectedly prolonged bout of audience laughter – and fold them comfortably into her dialogue, heightening the suggestion that this is simply a slightly gossipy brunch between old comrades.
Katy Manning is also skilled at the various characterisations required of her: this production of Me And Jezebel is a one woman show, and we’re allowed to witness a variety of different characters – a cute, excited boy, a confident, lounging husband, and of course, the Divine Feudist herself, none of them descending into simple parody.
This is a production to see, even if your reaction to hearing Bette Davis is ‘who?’ (and, indeed, if your reaction to hearing Katy Manning is simply, ‘Who’), held together by a performer very skilled at being our friend for a hour.