Space Theatre, Sat 16 Jun.
Joanne Hartstone is an exceptional writer and consummate performer. In this one-woman show, she captivates her audience from the first appearance of frightened fingertips gripping the side of the Hollywood sign, until the silent final ‘lights down’.
Perched precariously atop the huge ‘H’, aspiring starlet, Evie Edwards, in her best black dress, hat and purse, breathlessly reveals why she is there. With a suicide note to make sure the papers spell her name right, she represents the stream of faceless, nameless hopeful and talented women drawn to Hollywood with big dreams and aspirations, who find their hopes dashed without even a chance to audition.
Set in the era of The Golden Years of Hollywood, this show exposes the cruelty and heartlessness behind the big studios and the sad tales of the stars they exploited for huge profits. Evie’s heroines: Jean Harlow, ‘The Blonde Bombshell’ who died at age 26 from sudden kidney failure probably caused by the deadly mixture of ammonia, peroxide and Chlorox she put on her head every week to keep her hair platinum blonde.
Judy Garland, who was only allowed chicken soup, coffee and 80 cigarettes a day, to keep her weight down, was fed a cocktail of diet pills, uppers and downers for years. When she tried to take her own life during the peak of her career, she was treated with disdain when her collapse affected box office sales. Joanne’s rendition of You Made Me Love You was breathtaking and profoundly moving.
Evie is the voice of all the actresses told they are too short, too fat, too tall, too ordinary, too whatever and forced to desperate measures to try to get a five minute audition with an agent or just to survive. Joanne Hartstone said that she drew on some of her own experiences as an actress to reflect Evie’s rejection and despair when “no-one mentioned anything to do with acting”.
Harstone herself is exemplary and no-one can doubt her extraordinary skill as an actor and singer. With super-human energy she weaves a spell that is rivetting, and totally entertaining, drawing us into Evie’s world, portraying the people she meets in swift snapshots of the characters who send Evie to the ‘top of the town’.
The soundscape and selection of songs beautifully complement the text and create the WWII era with its delightful music. Evie’s final song, But Not For Me, was a showstopper.
Vince Fusco’s clever direction gives Hartstone the opportunity to create the pertinent people and places in Evie’s life with an easy flowing liquidity that adds colour and vigour to the monologue. Tom Kitney’s terrific lighting design brilliantly utilises the simple set in smoky, sleazy, scary, scintillating support of the narrative and the shifting settings of Evie’s story.
An enthralling and touching piece of theatre; masterfully written and performed.
Joanne Hartstone – The Girl Who Jumped Off The Hollywood Sign continues at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 2.30pm on Sun 17 Jun.
Book at BASS on 131 246 and bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.