Welcome into the lives and rivalries of the screen heroines Joan Crawford and Bette Davis – and for good measure add Marilyn Monroe to the mix. The top-notch cast brought this delicious bitchy comedy-drama, not to the screen but to a most appreciate audience on opening night of Castle Hill Players latest production, Dark Voyager by John Misto.
The play is part historical biography and part fiction with a satisfying mix of fun, drama, humour and some poignant moments. It is Hollywood 1962 on the eve of the release of the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? Gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, played by Annette Emerton, invites over the stars of the movie, the ageing icons Bette Davis, played by Faith Jessel, and Joan Crawford, played by Leigh Scanlon. The electricity flies between these two actors, both excellent in their roles as they scratch away at each other hurling insult for insult in many witty and often biting one-liners with Annette Emerton fuelling the flames and trying to weasel out information for her own aims.
Later in the play a young, naive pill-popping Marilyn Monroe, played by Jacqui Wilson who shines in the part, demonstrating all Marilyn’s familiar traits, joins the party. Skipper, the gay waiter hoping to become an actor, played by Adam Garden is transformed in the second act as his story also unfolds adding much humour and depth to the story.
Lots of booze and many secrets revealed as politics and sex become more and more tangled. Strongly directed by Annette van Roden what results is a fascinating look at the lives behind the camera as each of the characters struggles to survive in the world of Hollywood, often almost forced to choose actions against their will to climb the ladder of success.
Lighting design (Mehan Mortezaei ) is particularly effective in allowing the story to move from the present action to the telling of backstories so we better understand the context of the play. Peter Rhodes simple and effective set evokes the era as do the costumes (Margaret Olive, Annette van Roden) of the actors.
For an evening full of clever quips and back-biting revelations head to The Pavilion Theatre, Doran Drive, Castle Hill playing until 27 April 2019.