There’s a host of adjectives that could be used to describe Bette Davis: feisty, combative, self-assured and if you’re feeling generous – spirited. Jessica Sherr‘s one hander attempts to look at the fragile glass beneath the steel.
Moving between the night of the 1939 Oscars, where Davis lost out to Vivian Leigh for best actress, and flashbacks to the beginnings of her Hollywood career, we see a girl desperate to please. Someone who even when she realises that smiling and flirting with the Hollywood bosses won’t get her anywhere still deals with her daddy issues through affairs with powerful men.
Sherr’s performance isn’t a spot on impersonation but it is an impression of her character and she captures her drive, determination and desire to reach the top, as well as the contradictory self-doubt that stayed with her throughout her career. A casual watcher can enjoy this show, but those with some knowledge of classic Hollywood and the studio system will probably get most out of it, as names are dropped who those under 60 might not be aware of. This is a tough, but tender piece of theatre and a reminder that the off screen drama can often rival the on screen.